handmade sensory bags

Teensy bit of background info:

If you don’t know me “in real life” or haven’t glanced at my About Me page, you may not realize that my oldest son was diagnosed with autism a little bit before his second birthday. He’s 10 now and it’s been quite a roller coaster ride, as you can imagine. Some days are amazing and beautiful and other days are tedious and frustrating. Which I’m sure is the same for typical parents. Add autism to the mix and trust me when I say, it brings “parental challenges” it to a whole other level.
But my son is lovely and funny and amazing and intelligent and one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Over the last year or so his anxiety levels have been consistently rising. So much so that we decided to seek out some assistance for him. (Anxiety often goes hand in hand with autism.) Unfortunately with the high instance of the disorder, resources are stretched VERY thin around here. We buckled in for a long waitlist to see a therapist that had experience with anxiety in children, but also had the autism experience necessary in order to actually help my child. (Many therapists become inaccessible to a child like my son to those professionals who don’t know how to deal with the autism component. Again, very common, and VERY frustrating.)

We finally got a call that his name was next and he started seeing someone weekly back in March. It’s been good for him, good for us. Good for our family. We all continue to grow and learn and better equip him and ourselves for the tough days.

Last week when he was there, his therapist mentioned that the whole time he was talking to her he was handling a sensory bag that she had in her office. Hers was silky stretchy material with buds inside. He enjoyed fiddling with it and he remained calm during their discussion.

We’re no strangers to sensory input as when my son was first diagnosed he also had MAJOR sensory processing issues. He began OT as his first step in Early Intervention. At that time I was introduced into the strange world of sensory diet, input, and aversion. Things like Vestibular Input, brushing protocol, and joint compressions. His OT was great and over the next few years his sensory issues were tamed, a lot.

He stills gets OT as part of his IEP in school, but it’s not enough. We’re currently seeking additional private OT to supplement what he receives in school and also to hopefully help calm him when he’s at home with us. While we wait for services to begin (another waitlist!), I knew I could do a few things here that he might respond positively to. First step, how about some sensory bags? Great!

Now obviously, there are great therapeutic product companies out there that make almost everything an SPD individual might need, but I was looking for something cost-effective. I knew I could make them easily and cheaply.

I picked up a bag each of red lentils (which are very tiny and lighter) and red beans (which are larger and heavier) from the grocery store. I spent under 4 bucks total. Next I grabbed some of the play sand I had leftover from filling my outdoor canopy tent weights. Play sand is SUPER cheap, you can get a 50lb bag at Home Depot for under 3 bucks.

Of course I have a ton of scrap fabrics, so I rummaged through my stash to find some suitable pieces.

I choose three distinctively different fabrics:

a silky satin
a cozy cotton flannel
a stretchy cotton knit

Each fabric offers a unique sensory input coupled with their different fillings. Each bags finished dimensions are 9.5 in x 5.5 in. All seams are double sewn for extra durability. As I was cutting my pieces I figured, what the hey, might as well jazz them up a bit. I added appliques on two of them. (This was done with double-side fusible web.) The entire project took about an hour.

sensorybag3

sensorybag1

sensorybag2

The sand one is especially useful, as the heft of it is considerable and it can double as a lap weight. Which is yet another form of sensory therapy!

Using my hands to create something to hopefully help my son in his challenging journey is simply precious to me. So much love sewn into each!

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