Recently my wife and I have been doing a lot of research on autism. Our soon to be four year old son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum one year ago. I now fully appreciate the challenge it takes to raise a child with autism.
The signs were there but I dismissed them as my son being shy and when in public places he would habitually cover his ears, I dismissed the behavior as an oddity stemming from the hyperactive imagination of a child. I am no longer in denial and I now help my wife to actively seek out creative techniques and tools to teach our son.
Most of my research seems to point me in the direction of kinesthetic learning, sometimes known as tactile learning. For those who are not familiar with this concept, kinesthetic learning is characterized by learning through the process of actively doing something, versus sitting still and listening to a lecture or making an observation. When I was introduced to the concept during my graduate studies, I was not sold. I felt strongly that kinesthetic learning, was typical for most toddlers and children and that the concept was simply being exaggerated; now I am a believer.
With a sensory processing disorder mainly characterized by visual and auditory hypersensitivity, I have come to notice that my son relies mostly on his tactile senses to make sense of his world. He is very cognizant about the texture of anything he makes physical contact with, and since his sense of touch isn't something that creates a lot discomfort for him, he is more receptive to learning new concepts he is taught through his sense of touch. My wife has been very good about finding products that both aid in his acquisition of information and carter to his desire to constantly use his hands. From pillow books, (yes, pillow books) to children's books with various textures for the child to feel while reading, parents of children with sensory processing or spectrum related disorders would be surprised to learn what's out there.
I am excited to share with my readers a new product that I was recently introduced to, it's called Wikki Stix.
Wikki Stix is a string product made out of yarn and gluten free non-toxic wax. So far we have discovered several uses for Wikki Stix with our son. For starters, the product is sticky in its makeup and it's useful for forming letters, numbers and shapes on paper. I have also discovered that the activity of creating letters, numbers and shapes also prompts my son to become more verbally interactive as he proudly attempts to verbalize to us his creation on paper. Besides the ability to form shapes on paper, the product can also use be used as for arts and crafts to create whatever comes to the imagination.
I consider this learning process to be kinesthetic in nature. Granted in the long run a learning process primarily based on tactile simulation can prove to be flawed. For now I believe it will prove fruitful in laying down the foundation for my son to learn fundamental age appropriate concepts. As he gets older with an improved sense of confidence, the goal would be for him to learn to significantly reduce his reactivity to his hypersensitive visual and auditory senses.
I strongly recommend Wikki Stix to parents and guardians of children with sensory processing disorders. For more information please visit, www.wikkistix.com.