So, now we’ve come to the DIY and craft portion of our post, or, as I like to call it, the “you made what?” part.
One of our biggest challenges with Simon, aside from communication, is dealing with his sensory issues. Left to his own devices, he would probably spend his time banging his head on the floor, spinning in circles, flinging himself onto furniture, and chewing holes in everything, including himself. It’s an ongoing battle for us and we are always having to adapt and try new things.
There is a big market for sensory supplies, and they almost inevitably come with a hefty price tag. Wherever possible, I am trying to find ways to make things my own, because 1) it’s usually cheaper, and 2) It’s gives me a better sense of actually doing something to help him. I’ve had a few requests for instructions for some of my projects, so here we go…..
This is actually a pretty simple project, but it can get pricey. A crash pad is handy to have around; Simon runs and throws himself on it when he needs to and when he gets really worked up, we’ll sometimes pick him up and “crash” him onto it, finishing up with firm but gentle squishing with a pillow over his body. This was the first sensory project I made, I don’t have any picture of the process, though, I’m sorry.
1) I was fortunate to find a twin-size flat sheet on sale for $3. If you’re not a fan of sewing, you can also use a zippered duvet cover (more on that in a minute).
2) I folded the sheet in half and, using my trusty sewing machine, Joyce, ran simple seams up the sides, leaving the top open. Now, flip it inside out so the seam edges are on the inside.
3) I bought high-density foam. Now, this is the expensive part. If you go to a craft store, like Joann, prices can run up to $50 a yard or more. You’ll probably want thicker pieces, which are pricier. I think the smallest piece I used was 2 or 3 inches and the biggest was 4 inches. My first trip to Joann, I dropped around $50 on foam and that was with a 50% off coupon. Yeah, it’s that expensive. I would recommend shopping around and especially checking Amazon, which is where I found my second bunch of foam for when I need to fluff the pad up more. From Amazon, I was able to get 6 feet of 3 inch foam for like $30 or something crazy. The sellers were jerks, but it was cheap and it worked well. (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D6NQEWG/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1)
4) Cut your foam up. You want chunks of all different sizes and shapes; it makes it more interesting to fall on and keeps it from settling too much. Cutting foam is hard work and it’s messy. I recommend a utility knife and sharp scissors, but please be careful and don’t cut yourself. I’m not responsible if you lose a finger. And you want big chunks. Like blocks of foam. Or, at least that’s what I preferred. It’s easier that way.
5) Stuff the foam into your sheet then sew up the opening. Ta da! You have a crash pad and probably a hell of a mess to clean up.
NOTE: Using the sheet method, the crash pad would only be able to be spot cleaned, which is problematic when dealing with small children. What I would recommend, and what I’m planning on doing at some point, is using the sheet method for your basic pad and then putting the whole thing into a duvet cover, which can then be removed and washed as needed. You could, of course, just put your foam directly into a duvet cover, but that would mean un-stuffing and re-stuffing at every wash and the foam bits would be a pain in the ass, in my opinion. Plus, any tiny pieces of foam that might stick to the inside of the duvet cover could possibly damage your washer. Again, I’m not responsible if that happens, okay?
Anyway, the final size on my crash pad is 36 inches by 42 inches, which is small, but Simon is still a little guy. Your size will very depending on how much you stuff it and if you use a duvet cover or a sheet or whatever. You can also buy ready-made crash pads, but they will cost you upwards of $150 depending on the size.
Weighted Lap Pad
As mentioned in part 1, there are people who crave deep pressure sensation. One of the ways to help with that is with weighted items. Weighted blankets can help you sleep. Weighted shoulder wraps or lap pads can help you calm down. You get the idea.
Simon tends to wander during meal times. He’ll take a few bites and then get up and walk around before coming back and eating more. It’s possible this is due to a digestive issue, but it could also be that he just gets slightly anxious during meals. I asked his OT if a weighted lap pad might help him sit through a meal and she was very enthusiastic about trying it. Now, I’ve seen weighted lap pads that cost $150 or more and a weighted shoulder “snake” can be $35 to $50. I’m not going to pay that kind of money without knowing if it’s going to help him or not. So, I decided to make a weighted lap pad for Simon. And I did so for under $20. Yeah, ’cause I’m awesome. You wanna be awesome like me? Here’s how:
1) Decide on how heavy you need your object to be. I strongly suggest talking to an OT or other qualified professional for what they would recommend for your needs. That said, a rough rule of thumb is 1-2 pounds per 10 pounds of body weight, or for little kids, a pound per year of age. That’s a very, very rough guide and, again, consult with a professional on what weight you need. I am not responsible for injury, okay? Now, Simon’s OT recommended 2 pounds for his lap pad.
2) Choose your filling. What are you going to use as weight in your pad? Rice, beans, metal washers, marbles, toy bean bags, etc. You have a ton of options. I chose rice because it’s cheaper and it’s smaller, so there would minimal lumps and bumps. Some people worry about bugs when using rice or beans; I sealed up the rice in plastic before using to hopefully eliminate bug risk. If it turns out to be a problem, I’ll just open the pad, pull out the rice bags, and replace with something else. No harm, no foul. Now, when you’re using something like rice or beans, your lap pad will NOT be washable (you do not want to put rice through your washing machine.), unless you’re using waterproof fabric. Since I’m planning on Simon using this at the table, it needs to be washable (he is 2 years old, after all), so I am going to be making a zippered cover for the pad that can be removed and washed as needed. It will be made out of PUL fabric, which is what cloth diaper covers are made out of, so it will be waterproof and any spills won’t seep through onto the pad itself or onto the rice. My $20 price tag for this project includes the PUL fabric and zipper, but I haven’t had a chance to make the cover yet. Maybe this week.
3) First, I made my rice bags. I was planning on doing two columns of rice with 4 sections in each columns, so needed 8 rice bags. Two pounds of weight divided by 8 equals 0.25 lbs of rice needed for each bag. Easy peasy, as Eleanor likes to say. I weighed out 1/4 lb of rice and put it in a clear sandwich baggie which I then sealed shut with packing tape. And then I did that 7 more times for a total of 8 rice bags.
4) Then the sewing began. I started with a half-yard of plain white cotton fabric, because it was cheap. It’s width (approximately 40 inches) was the ideal size to fit on Simon’s lap once folded in half. Since this pad is going into a cover, I wasn’t too terribly concerned with the neatness of the sewing, as long as it held together. I also didn’t take many pictures because, well, I forgot. I folded the fabric in half and, just like with the crash pad, ran a seam up each side leaving the top open, making a nifty little pouch. I flipped it inside out so the seam edges are on the inside. I then ran another seam straight up the middle, separating the pouch into two columns. Then I put a rice bag down at the bottom of each column and ran a seam right above the bags, putting them in their own compartments. The reason for separating them like this is to keep them from bunching up at one end or getting stuck to each other or some crazy shit like that. It also helps keep the weight evenly distributed throughout the pad.
Then two more bags and another seam. Then two more bags and another seam. Then the last two bags and a double seam to close the whole thing up. And there it is, a 2 pound weighted lap pad, sans cover. I haven’t tried it with Simon yet as I need to get the cover done first. Like I said, maybe this week. If this works well for him, then I’ll likely be making him a blanket, too.
DISCLAIMER: Please use caution when sewing weighted objects on a machine. If you accidentally sew into the compartments where your rice (or whatever weights you are using) is, you could damage your sewing machine. Additionally, since this is a weighted item you’re making, it will pull on the needle if you let the pad dangle off your machine while sewing, which could damage your machine. Gravity, thou art a heartless bitch. I used a small pillow to rest the heavy end of the lap pad on while I was sewing. Again, la-la-la, I’m not responsible if you mess up your sewing machine.
Here endeth this portion of DIY autism items. I have a few other things to show you at some point, but this is getting really long and I’m tired and need to start working on dinner. So, y’all are just going to have to wait on the rest.
On another note, we’re starting Simon on a video program that’s supposed to help with his communication skills. There’ll probably be a post about that soon.
Have a good week, everyone!
QUICK UPDATE on March 5th: I still haven’t finished the cover to the lap pad, but I had to share this. Simon has taken to wearing the weighted lap pad around his shoulders. It falls off really easily so he’s constantly asking for it to be put back on. Looking like I’ll be making him a weighted shoulder wrap soon! I’ve got some new ideas that I can’t wait to try out!