When he was younger in kindergarten his hair would have paint or glue in it and his clothes would be stained with every art supply that you could imagine. He wears a uniform to school so I gave up on the mandatory white shirt along time ago. Johnny craves messy sensory input when he is feeling anxious stressed working really hard. School tends to be a lot about compliance so he would be discouraged from being messy in the classroom and then because he wore uniform was even worse. I would get upset about this because I figured he would be like a champagne bottle with a cork about to burst if you didn’t give into his feelings and urges to fix himself by getting messy.
So with the help of occupational therapists and the autism resource teacher we were able to get the kindergarten teachers to understand that he needs sensory diet and he needs time to be a little messy. It was an imperfect fix and in his kindergarten years in the afternoon he went to private preschools that allowed for sensory play which he took fill it vantage of.
But now he’s in grade 3 and he has sensory stuff available to him but he doesn’t have access to it like he needs because he has such a busy day. Teachers are just trying to get all the things done and they forget that they really need to let him have an avenue for this. So he takes it into his own hands and when he’s at recess if there’s snow, he gets super messy. If there’s puddles of water splashes around and if there’s bark mulch he can move he does it. Recently he’s discovered with the winter thaw a nice big mud puddle. The only problem with that is he gets carried away by the fun he’s having and he’s at school and not the farm. He doesn’t know when to stop when he’s having too much fun and his boots are so full of mud that it’s threatening to go on the inside as well.
Johnny has a really good autism teacher who’s been teaching him about sensory regulation and zones of regulation and what choices he can make to regulate himself better. They been doing a whole study module on it and he knows all about it but for some reason he thinks that he should just wait until he gets home from school to partake in these activities. But that’s really hard to do because if he feels the urge and it’s right in front of him he just wants to do it especially if he’s having a hard day.
Why doesn’t he choose to regulate himself all of he time at school? My guess is because he doesn’t see the other kids do this. I want him to understand that it’s OK and the other kids give into their own needs by running around like crazy kicking balls and drinks and jumping around. I’m trying to explain to him that he likes messy play because it makes him feel good.
So I wrote a note to the teacher telling him my concerns and at the same time thanking him for teaching all about the self-regulation piece in the classroom. I told him I want to replace his mud fest with something else that happens in the classroom throughout the day during 5 minute breaks. I am suggesting to him that I can make a couple of small bins and put his name on it and that will be filled with his sensory choices/ stuff that he can use at school. He is a bit reluctant because he is worried that other kids will take his stuff if he brings it to school (he treasures things and never throws things away). I asked him if he could help him understand that whatever he brings to school you will keep safe for him.
I’m not mad that Johnny comes home looking like this because kids are kids. But but I’m not happy that he’s coming home so dis regulated that he goes out at recess and does this in the schoolyard to try to fix himself. When it snows he can throw his body into the snow and eat snow but now its gone. He says he doesn’t know what else to do at recess and he doesn’t want to do games because games are hard. I hope that if we chat with the teacher things can change.