Towers of Pillows

Anybody who has a child on the spectrum or with SPD probably took one peak at that title and shook their head in understanding.  “Yep, my kid does that too” you’re saying.  Sometimes I look at Andy and just think, if only he could talk like a normal kid, he would probably be a genius!  He is such a little scientist.  I love to watch him work sometimes and try to see things from his perspective.

It was maybe just a year or two ago that I started really trying to notice what he was doing. What the autism community calls stimming (repeated self-stimulating behavior), I call him being a mini research scientist!  Having that in my bones (and wanted to act on that someday in the future), I started approaching my view through the lens of a researcher. What is he thinking?  What is he trying to figure out? What scientific phenomenon is he discovering today?

I think it started with the tower of pillows.  Now, he’s been doing this off and on for YEARS! In fact, I remember when he was around 5, we were creating a PECS system of cards for him and the therapist asked what some reward activities might be and building towers of pillows was definitely one he enjoyed.  It got its own picture card.  He loves piling the pillows up on top of each other as high as he can possibly go, climbing up to the top of the tower and then crashing down to the couch and burying himself in between the pillows. This is what we call in the Sensory world, a seeking behavior.  He is seeking heavy input. At times like these, he is in need of the pressure of the pillows around him. Maybe because he is having a hard time feeling where his body is, so crashing into a pile of pillows gives him that input he so desperately needs.

Eventually, he got hurt one time as he grew taller (seriously, what are we feeding this boy? He’s going to turn into the Green Giant!). We put a stop to the towers of pillows because it was getting dangerous.  But then he discovered BOXES.  Towers and towers of boxes. Now I know that most kids can build towers with boxes and you may be saying what is so special about that?  What is amazing to me is that, when the boxes have been played with so much that they start falling apart, he still has some uncanny ability to layer them on top of one another, move them ever so slightly, getting them to balance precariously, just so. And voila, he has a tower of 6 or 7 boxes that would make an architect proud!  I mean, sometimes, the towers he makes would put the Leaning Tower of Pisa to shame.  Of course, the whole point of the tower is to make it crash, which gives him that “controlled” loud noise that has always brought him so much joy.  I love hearing that boy laugh.  He has always been such a happy child.

Lately he has been back to doing the towers of pillows again, which is fine by me because I know he is just needing to get some input on his body.  He is having trouble with being aware of his body so he needs that to help him feel his muscles and feel where his body is in relation to the world around him.  So we let him and just take it with a side of caution, making sure he’s not hurting himself.  Maybe it’s because he is growing so quickly right now.  We haven’t quite hit puberty yet, but by the way he’s eating, we must be getting close to the raging hormones so maybe he’s feeling a little unorganized or unsure of himself.  So the towers are back and he’s as happy as ever with the building and crashing. Hey, at least it helps him sleep at night!

What do your children to for proprioceptive input?

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