Finding inner calm – giving children elbow room works
An innovative hub of wellbeing brings children with sensory issues into the fold
An estimated one in six children has some level of sensory processing difficulties that have an impact on them academically, socially or emotionally. Wilkinson never suspected they were the cause of some of her daughter’s wayward behaviour until Ní Ghiobaláin suggested that she bring Tuilelaith in. She identified problems with auditory processing and proprieception.
Suddenly Wilkinson understood why, if she shouted up in the morning for Tuilelaith to do her teeth and bring down her school bag, inevitably only one would be done. She couldn’t cope with more than one command at a time.
She was also astounded at the effect of the “hot dog roll” that Ní Ghiobaláin performed on her daughter – basically rolling her up in a yoga mat and squishing her.
“I tried that and then she sat down for 20 minutes, completely still, and did her homework.”
A follow-up visit to a behavioural optometrist, as recommended by Ní Ghiobaláin, also proved to be an eye-opener. She diagnosed a developmental problem in how Tuilelaith’s eyes deal with the change from short focus to long focus and also demonstrated how the fitting of special lenses transformed her ability to read.
Wilkinson initially wondered why on earth the school had not picked up on these issues but soon realised that primary teachers are not trained to recognise these difficulties.
“I was kind of angry for a while,” she says, before focusing her energies on trying to do something for these children at the Elbow Room.
Bill* also attests to the benefits of the “hot dog roll” as well as other techniques he has learnt to do with his eight-year-old son, who has dyspraxia, since they started coming to the Elbow Room a couple of months ago. They are working on his concentration, listening skills and spatial awareness.
Describing dyspraxia as an “invisible disability”, Bill says he and his wife were first alerted to their only child’s problems by his teacher in junior infants, who noticed he found it hard to sit up straight and concentrate in the classroom. Once he was diagnosed through private assessment, they found that activities recommended by the Dyspraxia Association of Ireland, such as horse-riding, made a “phenomenal” difference.
Although their son has lots of friends, “he knows he’s different”, says Bill, who observes how he relates better with children who also have dyspraxia, which is why the opportunity to do one of a series of therapeutic summer camps that started at the Elbow Room this week, is particularly welcome.
As a mother of four children, Deirdre* appreciates the sibling service at the Elbow Room – “it’s like an extra pair of hands”, she says. And she is particularly pleased that not only her son who has sensory processing difficulties is going to the summer camp but so is his brother.
She has seen a transformation in her son since he started attending Ní Ghiobaláin. When once he was very anxious about school and would have pains in his stomach in the mornings, now he “bounces out the door”.
“I can see that he is calm and more comfortable in himself,” she adds. “He enjoys life much more.”
*Names have been changed
For more information see the-elbowroom.com