How does your engine run? – Alert Program
Adjusting a car’s engine speed helps us to safely and appropriately navigate the world around us. Just think, when our car engine is at its optimal level, we are able to travel to and from destinations safely and prevent passengers and pedestrians from getting hurt. But what happens when our car engine isn’t at its optimal level? We may find that other drivers get frustrated at us, or we could cause an accident.
Just like the engine in a car, our bodies have their own internal ‘engine speed’. You might also hear your therapist refer to this as ‘level of alertness’. Changing our alertness helps us to stay focused, join in with activities, and to allows us to feel ready for the day’s challenges! We all do things throughout the day to help change our level of alertness… think about that coffee you had this morning or that long, warm shower you will have tonight. For many kids, it can be difficult to recognise their different body cues and therefore often they may find it tricky to modify their level of alertness to meet the demands of an activity. By using the analogy of a car engine, we can start to teach children how to adjust their level of alertness to support their development of self-regulation.
Here are four easy steps you can implement at home to help your child begin to understand and adjust their engine speed.
- Introduce the language to your child:
- Tell them we all have a ‘Low Engine’, ‘Just Right Engine’, and a ‘High Engine’ and each engine is important for different activities.
- Help them to learn the language by associating different engine speeds with colours, blue for low engine, green for just right, and red for high engine.
- Let them colour in and label their own speedo
- As you drive your car, describe/narrate the speed of the car engine to your child.
- Tie in language to child’s body cues:
- As your child displays different body cues (talking quickly, breathing heavily, moving their body fast, sitting still), link them to the different engine speeds. “I can see you are moving around and talking very quickly, it looks like your engine speed is high!”
- Trial different sensory activities to determine the effect on your child’s engine speed:
- Trial activities within each of the senses and discuss with your child the impact of the different activities on their engine level (For some children an activity might be calming whilst for others it might increase their level of arousal!)
- See the list below for some sensory activities to trial with your child
- Help your child to practice adjusting their engine level:
- Make a list of the alerting and calming sensory strategies for your child.
- When you child needs to change their engine speed, ask them what activities they think might help to get them into their ‘just right zone’.
- After implementing the activity, ask your child to rate their engine speed.
- Chewing ice
- Blowing bubbles
- Chewing on a piece of gum
Vestibular and Proprioceptive:
- Jumping or swinging
- Having a squish with cushions (provides deep pressure)
- Pretending to walk like different animals
- Having a light back scratch
- Playing with sand, water or slime
- Stroking a soft toy, pet, fuzzy blanket
- Making shadow animals
- Modifying the light levels (use sunglasses or dim the light)
- Playing eye-spy
- Listening to a someone reading a story
- Playing an instrument
- Listening to different types of music
If you want to learn more about this program then head to its website:
Or you are welcome to give us a call on 0430 645 086 to talk about how it might apply to your child.
Written by Kirsty Johnson (Occupational Therapist)