Friday, March 03, 2000

Obsessed with OT

It's not unusual, these days, to be a compulsive catalog shopper. Some people order entire wardrobes from them. Some people decorate their home. Some order gifts, or books, or stationery, or knickknacks galore. There are catalogs for toys, for music, for address labels, for office supplies, for computers, for pantyhose. It's not at all unheard of for people to horde catalogs, pore over them obsessively, wait eagerly for the next one.

But I may be the first person to be addicted to occupational-therapy catalogs.

A year ago, I never even knew the things existed. I assumed that only schools could order the sort of equipment I saw in the room where my son gets his therapy for low muscle tone, poor fine motor skills, and sensory-integration disorder. I thought that the only way to find fidget toys was to scrounge through discount stores. When my son needed a weighted vest, I had to cobble one together from an L.L. Bean multipocketed number and a bunch of curtain weights. It can never be washed because there's no way on earth I'm yanking all those weights out and sewing them back in again.

Who knew I could buy a nifty pre-made weighted vest that you could slip the weights in and out of? And weights for his sneakers? And weights for his wrists? And a weighted crescent to put around his neck? And a weighted waistband? And a weighted hat? Why, it might be possible to weight him down enough that he wouldn't be able to do his constant jumping, jumping, jumping. It might be possible to weight him down enough that he'd have to stop all his running around. Perhaps we could make him completely immobile! Call UPS! I need this stuff now!

A sensory-integration e-mail list led me to Web sites that feature occupational-therapy goodies. The Web sites led me to order the catalogs. And the catalogs--they're just too fun. I don't think I'll be investing in trampolines or gliders or sling swings anytime soon, but I'm getting a little carried away with the smaller stuff. Seat cushions that let kids wiggle without actually getting up! Slantboards to write on! Makeshift portable study carrels! Pens that vibrate! Pencil grips! Squeeze balls! All-encompassing sacks for kids to break out of! Silent timers! Punching bags! I'll have one of everything, please, and make it snappy.

So far, my purchases have met with mixed success. The seat cushion was a big help in the classroom. The sneaker weights mostly work as a threat, because he hates them. He'd rather suck on the squeeze ball than use it to strengthen his hands, and he's chewed on the vibrating pen. The slantboard helps him write, but the clip at the top is powerfully distracting. He's broken bunches of fidget toys, and he mostly likes dropping the punching bag down the stairs. But hey--pushing and lifting heavy things is good for vestibular input, right?

It's sure not going to stop me from buying, buying again. If OT catalogs are like any other catalogs, I should be receiving about 100 of them in the next few weeks. I should be on the sucker list by now, and every fidget-toy maker in creation will be targeting me with their wares. Bring 'em on. I've got a sensory-impaired kid and a credit card, and there's no stopping me!

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