Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sensory Integration (for Freda)

Freda posted a comment on a very old post of mine about sensory integration and bipolar in adults. In short this is an OT theory that is for children, which I began using with mentally ill adults in 2005 with profound success. In 2006 when I was on disability and not responding well to medications even after months off, and was unable to sleep despite enormous doses of sedatives, mood stabilizers, and sleeping pills I finally decided to treat treating myself for this disorder I'd known for years I had. My first weighted blanket weighed 9 lbs and was child-sized, so every night it would fall off my bed, but it also let me sleep for the first time in months. Not only did I sleep but I didn't have nightmares or frequent awakenings and I didn't toss and turn consistently. That had never been true for me. In the spring of this year my custom made weighted blanket arrived. It is 22 lbs, fits a full size bed nicely, and I choose the fabric, a fleecy material with raised dots (Minkee dots) to rub that is typically used for baby blankets. With this I have even fewers symptoms of the disorder.

There are a number of symptoms associated with the disorder. Different types of the disorder show up differently. My main issues are that I lose my sense of where my body is, and I'm hypersensitive to my surroundings. The weighted blanket provides feedback and helps me relax. The hypersensitivity is demonstrated by things like being totally unable to stand tags in clothing, being unable to tolerate many fabrics (I really can only wear cotton or every so often a certain synthetic).

The trick is getting treatment. I think many mentally ill adults have this and I've been extremely successful applying it to adults. In fact I had one patient who was so incredibly violent that he had to be cared for by 3 staff at all times for safety. He'd broken someone's ribs, attacked other patients, and generally couldn't handle any noise or interaction. The first time I treated him they thought I was crazy because I got close to him, talked in a low voice, and touched him. He tried exactly once to fight me, and that was only an attempt to assert power; he tried to walk away. I let him walk then took him back to his seat and continued. I saw him 3x/week for one month. After one week there were no more violent outbursts. In the entire month there was only one minor one and it was understandable. When I started his community activity was McDonald's with 3-4 staff; at the end it was with one staff. And by the end he had dental work without anesthesia. His behavior management psychiatrist was amazed. But I didn't do anything special, just thought a different way. If I'd lived closer to that area I could easily have opened a practice with that psychiatrist's referrals, I think. But it was 2 hours from home and I couldn't do it anymore than one month.

Your best bet is to find an OT who does this, maybe has a small private sideline with kids. If you live near an OT school (and if my sitemeter logic is correct you live in the city where I was trained--do you live near WMU? Sorry for spying that way, normally I don't connect comments to city, but if you are there then this gets easier. If you're in that city email me (in sidebar) and I'll tell you more.) then the easiest way may be to call them and see if they know anyone who does this. I know we had at least one person who came in that did it. We also had a professor who specialized in it but she is now retired. A school would also give you some chance of maybe being a clinic patient, but generally they'll be gearing it towards kids. You'll need a full fledged program, not an OT assistant program.

I wish I could say this is easy. It's not. Had I not known this for myself I probably never would have done it. My psychologist had seen weighted blankets used in the hospital but had no direct experience. Now I know of several people who recommend them because of me.

Sensory integration is so important for me that I'm working on a whole room where there is decreased stimulation and lots of ways to calm myself. I hate that it's an issue for so many and that the only reason I know how to figure out what I need (because sensory integration takes many forms and many possible and sometimes opposite approaches are needed) is my training to treat others. I get so many people searching for information on this topic, and I really wish there was more I could say. If I weren't bipolar I'd probably be doing research on this stuff with adults, but I am bipolar and I can't handle more than I do.

Hopefully this helps some. Please email me (masterofironyatroadrunnerdotcom) if you have further questions, or leave a comment. Sorry it took a while. Bipolar just takes over everything....As you know.

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