Friday, December 29, 2006

sensory integration and Enki Education

Getting back to the Sensory Integration topic for a bit, I wanted to talk about what Enki Education has to say about it, mixed in with my own thoughts on the topic. Since the Enki curriculum is based on child development research, it is inevitable that it is going to include Sensory Integration in it's program, since the development of a child's sensory system is basic to their development in other areas. (If the child isn't processing the world properly, then their brain is not going to function properly, which is going to be a major problem during an educational program.)

Enki first looks at how young children were raised traditionally, say a hundred or more years ago. There was a lot of manual labor, even for the very young. Travel was by horseback or wagon or on foot. There was lots of hauling -- water, animal feed, supplies, cooking materials, building supplies. Mucking out the stalls, grooming horses, cleaning out the chicken coop, plowing the fields were a daily part of life. Washing the laundry was a very physically involved activity. So was putting food on the table -- milking the cow, churning butter, gathering eggs, plucking chickens, kneading bread, stirring stew. Sensory Integration was built into those kids' daily lives automatically, nobody had to think about providing "heavy work" for them, it happened naturally, daily. Vestibular and proprioceptive stimulation occured all day, every day.

Now think about how the kids of today are raised. When they need to travel, they are strapped into car seats in smooth-riding vehicles. Vast mileage is covered in no-time flat, and children are pummeled with visual input without any vestibular or proprioceptive input. The same is true of watching television or movies. And there's just not much opportunity for kids to participate in "heavy work" -- food comes from the fridge, often pre-packaged and ready-to-serve. Laundry is tossed into a washing machine, a button is pushed, and voila, you're done. What has replaced all that natural heavy work? Nothing, in most cases. And is there any wonder Sensory Processing problems are on the rise? And I'll take it a step further -- if unable to process their world properly, wouldn't these kids be more prone to other developmental problems, such as ADD and Autism?

There's a concern with Tactile feedback as well (which is the third important "base" sense). Traditionally, kids were raised with a minimum of pre-constructed toys -- they played with sticks and rocks and other natural things they found hanging around the farm, balls of wool yarn, leather and wooden items. What toys they did have were made of cotton, wool, and wood. Those natural substances give back a tactile experience that is very different from the touching of plastic (which is what most kids' toys today are made of). The Enki materials also suggest a core feeling of disconnectedness with unnatural substances. But whether or not you believe that, certainly the experience of holding a rough piece of wood in your hand is different than holding a smooth plastic toy.

In any case, Enki suggests mirroring as closely as possible the way young children were raised back before Sensory issues were a concern. Toys made from natural materials, no TV, minimize car travel, provide plenty of "heavy work" that at least immitates the work kids used to do (but why stop at just immitating it -- why not just DO it?). Enki goes a step forward, providing sensory activities right in their curriculum, which is a good idea, considering that not many of us out there are really living like the pioneers did. And it makes sense to me that for a kid with actual problems with Sensory Processing (like Jacob), there's a need for even more (the professional involvement of an OT trained in Sensory Integration Therapy, or at least a solid at-home Sensory Integration program.)


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