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Self-regulation resources and training to support children’s mental health

Supporting neurodivergent children with Relax Kids and Vestibular Activities

Children with neurodivergence, such as ADHD, autism, or sensory processing disorders, often struggle with relaxation and stress management. As their brains are wired differently, they can have difficulty calming their minds and bodies, leading to increased anxiety and meltdowns.

However, the Relax Kids 7-step methodology incorporates vital vestibular activities combined with exercises that stimulate the parasympathetic system.

The vestibular system, in a sensory system that creates the sense of balance , good posture and spatial orientation.

In Relax Kids classes, we stimulate the vestibular system in both the MOVE section and the STRETCH section where we encourage children to stretch and balance.

Relax Kids have always believed that vestibular movements such as dancing, crawling and rocking are important in the relaxation process of helping children self-regulate and get a feeling of calm in their bodies, which can help reduce anxiety.

Movement helps children unwind, de-stress which in turn can improve their emotional resilience. By integrating activities such as rocking, swinging, or balance exercises, children can burn off any excess energy and get ready to calm down and relax.

Occupational Therapists use Vestibular Movements to help children who have an over responsive or under responsive Vestibular system.

A child that has an over responsive movement system may:

* Be fearful of playing and moving especially using playground or gym equipment

* Suffer from travel sickness

* Struggle when their head is in a different position

* Not want to travel on  escalators or lifts

Help children with an over responsive movement system by not forcing them to travel in a lift or elevator and let them take the stairs. Give them a toy to squeeze when travelling and encourage them to look out of the window. Give them options of movements they enjoy.

A child that has an under responsive movement system may:

* Appear hyperactive and be constantly moving

* Move or use fidget toys to help them concentrate

* Be fearless with movement and take risks

Help children with an under responsive movement system by encouraging them to move as much as possible, especially outside.

Encourage them to develop skills as they move such as skipping and jumping (hop scotch). Give them a wobble board or inflatable cushion to sit on so they can keep moving.

Encourage relaxation breaks in between the movement.

3 exercises that can help neurodivergent children relax and unwind:

Calming Breath Exercise:
– Ask children to sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
– Encourage them to take slow, deep breaths in through their nose and out through their mouth.
– Have them place their hand on their belly and feel it rise and fall with each breath.
– Guide them in counting to four as they inhale and exhaling for a count of four.
– Repeat this exercise several times, focusing on the rhythm of the breath to help calm the mind and body.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
– Ask children to sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
– Starting with their toes, encourage them to tense each muscle group in their body for a few seconds, then release and relax.
– Move upward through their legs, abdomen, arms, shoulders, and finally their face and neck, repeating the tense-and-release pattern.
– Encourage them to focus on the sensation of relaxation and release tension from each muscle group.
– This exercise can help children become more aware of the physical signs of stress and how to release them.

Visualisation Exercise:
– Guide children to close their eyes and imagine themselves in a peaceful, calming place, such as a beach, forest, or garden.
– Encourage them to use all their senses to fully immerse themselves in the visualisation
– What do they see, hear, smell, and feel in this safe space?
– Encourage them imagine taking slow, deep breaths in this tranquil environment, feeling a sense of calm and relaxation wash over them.
– Allow children to  stay in this visualisation for a few minutes before gently bringing them back to the present moment.
– Visualisation exercises can help children create a mental refuge for times of stress and anxiety.

Relax Kids have created a series of creative, child-led relaxation products that support neurodivergent children.

We recommend Quiet Spaces or Nature MP3 for children with Neurodivergence

Staff training in the Relax Kids unique 7 steps system is available.