Back in the fall my mother in-law brought a special little stuffy as a gift to Joshua, this odd looking stuffed duck...or maybe a chicken...or who knows. Anyways, it's cute. It is a sensory toy as it is weighted and can be squeezed/flattened providing lots of great proprioceptive input into those muscles and joints which helps calm and regulate sensory systems. Chicky only recently got his/her name, as the stuffed animal sat in the living room for a few months as he had no interest in it. One day he wanted to bring it to school and ever since then his attachment has grown substantially. Chicky gets carried around the house, has gone grocery shopping with us, visited Nana and Papa, made countless trips to school, and of course is a mandatory necessity for sleeping. The children at school were intrigued with Joshua's new toy and one day when I went to pick him up, the toy got his name, Chicky.
Well what started as a fun item to throw around and play with, has turned into an essential part of our daily life and sensory world. Because Chicky is weighted, as Joshua throws him around, or we toss Chicky onto Joshua's legs or belly it is giving a good impact on his muscles and joints. We used to do this with heavy throw pillows, but Chicky has taken that place. Joshua carries him around the house or walking through the store. And he is able to cope with the busy aisles and lines because Chicky is heavy and naturally helping him calm and stay regulated.
But the really important aspect of Chicky that has come to light over the past couple weeks is his ability to help Joshua with his social/emotional development. Chicky is real to him, apart of his everyday life. One night we were having a tough transition to bedtime, which is a typical challenge for us, and Joshua was starting to hit himself due to frustration. I had located Chicky and we had him in the room but that wasn't enough. I suggested Chicky needed a hug, but it only made Joshua more upset.
Recently I have been reading about Mr. Rogers and his work with puppetry and I have also read articles on how puppetry can open up children's worlds and is a great tool for helping develop emotional and social skills. Well, this information popped into my head that rough bedtime, and I started to talk in a different voice bringing Chicky to life. Joshua immediately looked over at Chicky and started talking to him. In his gibberish Joshua told Chicky many thoughts and I am guessing a conversation of what was happening. I continued to respond with "Oh wow" or "Yes I can see that" in Chicky's new voice and Joshua continued to talk with Chicky and he started to calm down. I began to talk about how he was feeling and how Momma had made him feel, but with Chicky's voice, using words such as sad, mad, frustrated. Joshua also told Chicky how he felt and in-between his gibberish I heard him insert those words and respond with Yes when I summarized his thoughts. I had Chicky whisper into my ear, and I whispered into Chicky's ear and then Chicky communicated with Joshua.
This was such a magical moment for me as a parent and an Early Childhood Educator because I pushed my boundaries of opening up my willingness to utilize puppetry or a form of it as a tool to support and help my son's development. Puppetry used to be a daily experience in a child's life, and now it is not utilized. Children are so imaginative and the magical worlds they create are REAL to them. So when we enter into those magical worlds and embrace them as they do, the opportunities to connect and support children are endless.
Comfort toys such as Chicky help a child during emotional experiences, provide safety and comfort and friendship. These items also help children self-regulate and can aid in the ability to get through their days easier, especially when away form loving parents. So please reconsider "rules" on toys from home and see them as tools and integral parts of a child's everyday life.
I am a mom to an amazing young son who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 2.5 years old. This blog is about the journey we have travelled as a family to discover how our son communicates and to be a happy child in a world that doesn't quite feel right to him. I am an Early Childhood Educator and I use my passion of play and individual needs to support our son to live a joyous and happy life.