For a lot of kids, communicating how they are feeling, especially when they feel out of control is very difficult. Frustration on both the part of the child and parent/teacher only increases when the child cannot verbalize how they feel or why. When a child who is already having a tough time articulating his feelings or actions finds himself in a stressful situation, greater behavioral escalation is bound to surface. So improve communication lines with this activity on identifying sensory speed with a self-odometer!
How Can I Improve My Child’s Ability to Communicate Feelings or Behaviors?
Visual aides are very helpful for assisting a child and adult when trying to communicate feelings and “energy levels”. The course titled, “How Does Your Engine Run” which is a program developed by 2 occupational therapists, Shelly Shellenberger and Mary Sue Williams, compares your child’s internal behaviors and feelings to that of a car engine.
Children of all cognitive and communication levels love this analogy and can easily relate to themselves as cars. Keeping things very simplistic for the child, use 3 “engine speeds” which the child selects as most closely resembling their own current “speed: Too slow, Just Right, or Too Fast. Incorporate pictures like these faces into a drawing of a speed odometer to help illustrate the various speed levels to help reinforce the concepts…
Make this special internal odometer with your child when he child is calm and discuss what each of the speeds means to him. Then work on constructing the odometer with the child so that the child feels as sense of ownership of it once its completed. (Every child, no matter what the skill level can help construct the odometer in some way, even if its just picking out the colors they want to use).
How to Construct:
1.Draw a half circle on cardboard paper and divide into 3 sections
2. Use the Headings : Too Slow, Just Write, and Too Fast in the 3 sections and add in corresponding faces
3. Cut out an arrow shape out of cardboard
4. Insert a brad to attach the arrow to the bottom of the odometer
Tips on Effective Usage…
This odometer can be used in various ways depending on what you are working on with your child…..
- Teach- Have the parent move the arrow to the appropriate section when you notice your child’s behavior is being clearly exemplified into one of the categories. This will help the child visually learn how their actions are being perceived and to see where they are on the engine odometer.
- Try- Ask the child to rate himself on the odometer. This will give the adult insight into how the child may be feeling internally and steps can be taken to help the child move to the “just right” category if needed.
- Reinforce- Although it may be tempting to only use the odometer during periods of time when the child is “too slow” or “too fast” categories in hopes of changing behaviors, make sure you use the odometer to illustrate “just right” behaviors too so the child can visually learn what those “just right” behaviors look like too.
Finally, Put It To Use:
As mentioned above, this is a great teaching tool and visual aide for communication between you and your child. Keep this nearby at your home or at the student’s desk at school in order to use often and reinforce the learning. Hopefully your kids will find their “just right” speed (Or at least communicate with you when they are not!)