Friday, March 28, 2008

Tool....or Torture?

I dropped AJ off at preschool the other day, and noticed by the Circle area was a milk crate filled with what looked like stuffed black tube socks. I wondered if the kids had a project to make stuffed toys or puppets or something. "What are those?" I asked AJ. "Those are for your lap," he replied.

Curious, I picked one up. Whoa! Stuffed, yes, but not with fluffy stuffing. Stuffed with what felt like gravel! Heavier than your average beanbag, but not packed solid. A decent weight to them. "What are these?" I asked M, AJ's teacher. She smiled, took one, and sat down cross-legged. "These are for our laps," she said, demonstrating. She put one in her lap, resting an end on each knee. "They're a sensory tool," she explained, "for kids who have a hard time sitting still. An occupational therapist suggested it. Somehow the weight of it is soothing and helps them to stay settled when we're having circle time."

"Wow. Does it work?" I asked.

"Yes!" she said happily. "I have to admit I was skeptical but I really couldn't believe how much it's helped. And every kid gets one so the ones that really need don't feel singled out in any way."

"No swinging them around!" AJ said, sitting up straight with his sock in his lap.

"That's right," M said. "What do we say? This is a TOOL, not a toy."

I was really impressed, not only that it was such a simple solution, but that M always is looking for and trying ideas like these in the classroom.

Janine and the girls were up visiting for a few days and came over for dinner that night. I told Nini and JP all about the lap-socks and we decided to try an experiment at the dinner table - as many of you know, getting AJ to stay seated during meals is a sore trial. So we put a largish book in his lap and covered it with a dinner napkin. And HOLY COW!!!! The kid sat! OK, not for the whole entire meal, but a good fifteen minutes which is miles beyond what he usually does. He sat and ate and chatted and seemed very calm. We were amazed at how utterly simple it was.

Next morning, when I picked AJ up at school, I saw M and J and I told them what happened and how I'd been telling everyone about this, what a great idea etc etc etc. M and J exchanged glances.

"We won't be using them anymore," J said.


"One of the parents complained," M went on and I could see the effort she was putting into not rolling her eyes. "Said it was punitive and..."

"ABUSIVE," J finished shortly. Her eyes were looking at the back of her brain.

"You've got to be kidding me," I said. "You said every kid used one at circle time. Punitive is making one kid use it while everyone stares. Abusive is BEATING him with it!"

So we commiserated for a while and bottom line, I said I had no problem with AJ having one a circle time and in fact, could I take one home?

So all you parents of pre-schoolers out there, what do you think? A simple tube sock stuffed loosely with gravel, the child keeps it in his or her lap. Sensory tool to aid? Or instrument of punishment?


Julia said...

Interesting...too bad I can't implement this somehow with a class of ten kids whom I teach the violin, but these students are between ten and thirteen. It's really the boys who would rather sword fight with their bows than pay attention.

Mieke said...

That's ri-diculous. Punishment? The woman who complained clearly knows nothing about children - or development. Ugh. Takes one loud mouth to ruin a good time.