by Molly Shaw Wilson, MS OTR/L BCPJanuary 31, 2018
What is a body sock?
A body sock is a sensory based tool used in occupational therapy sessions to provide proprioceptive and deep pressure input.
These types of input offer calming and organizing benefits to the participant. Made of Lycra, a body sock is a sack-like piece of stretchy fabric that covers the child’s entire body, with an opening for the head. It is likened to the idea of a sleeping bag, where one can climb completely inside. Most commercially available body socks have a Velcro-enclosure.
A body sock is portable, fun and can be used creatively!
Body socks are flexible in their use – an occupational therapist can engage a client actively in a specific, therapeutically designed treatment activity; or it can be offered at home in a dramatic play area for dress-up. Lightweight and easy to transport, it is great for therapists to have in their therapy “bag” of tricks, especially for home and school visits. Historically, a body sock has been used for clients with autism, who typically experience sensory processing difficulties. Today, there are many children without autism who struggle with sensory regulation that can benefit from using a body sock.
What does it do?
A body sock is used for sensory regulation – maintaining a calm but alert state; where impulses, emotions and behavior are in check. It provides calming and organizing input to the participant, all over the body at the same time. Using a body sock can promote the skill of body awareness – knowing where your body is in space - meaning where your body begins and ends, and its proximity to other objects and people. The body sock gives immediate feedback to the tactile and proprioceptive systems when it is worn, both in one static position or used for dynamic movement based tasks. Climbing inside a body sock can minimize visual input, especially when an environment is overwhelming. It can target motor planning skills; challenging the user to figure out how to move the body while wearing it.
Where do I get one? Can I make one myself?
There are many companies that offer body socks for purchase online, through therapy stores or even through Amazon. Body socks can vary in their labels depending on the company or manufacturer. A body sock, body pod, Body Sox, sensory sock, sensory sack – are some of the common terms to refer to the same type of product. Special order ones are even available on Etsy as well. For those do-it-yourself types, it’s easy to make one yourself with a few yards of Lycra fabrics and a sewing machine.
Ideas for use
Play with position and movement - Try walking upright around the room or on all fours, crawl through tunnels, roll across the room or down a hill. Fly like airplanes or scoot around the floor like a dump truck. Add another element to animal movements – like bear walking, crab walk/scuttle, slithering like snakes, and hopping like a bunny. Challenge yourself even more by playing leap frog, doing jumping jacks, having wheelbarrow walk races, and so much more! There are several dance groups that have done choreographed pieces wearing body socks!Check out this theatrical performance done in a body sock! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCR1rpA9r58
Yoga poses – Besides the obvious extension position of hiding your head inside the body sock and stretching all your limbs out like a 5-point star, hold some different yoga positions too. Practice down dog or child pose, tree pose, move through a sun salutation sequence while wearing the body sock and see how it feels. Try to maintain corpse position (shavasana) all stretched out, still and relaxed, while doing some yogi breathing exercises. Practice partner yoga or with a friend in front of the mirror and try to copy each other’s poses!
Motor Activities – Design an obstacle course and try to complete it while inside the body sock. Play balloon volleyball, or other balloon-based or ball games. See if you can operate a scooterboard, roller-racer or wheeled toy to add an element of motor planning. Expand a movement activity on a swing or suspended equipment in an OT office to involve several sensory systems at once.
Pretend – The creative and dramatic play possibilities abound. Put on a body sock and pretend to be a star, a swamp monster, superhero or zombie. Really extend your creative side with a body sock – it’s so open ended. Surprise an unexpecting visitor as they walk in the door. With a good imagination and even incorporating some props around the house, the options are endless.
Alphabet – Act out the ABCs! Use a mirror to sing and position yourself throughout the whole alphabet song. “Spell” something out and have a friend guess the word! Add another motor component to weekly spelling words, or word-wall words by spelling them with your whole body.
Games – One on one, play simple games like hide and seek or peek-a-boo. With a few body socks to share with friends, get a group involved and make it social. Play traditional games like Simon Says, Musical Chairs, Mother May I or Red Light / Green Light while wearing a body sock. Challenge yourself to Twister! Pretend to be a popcorn kernel– start by curling up into a kernel (ball) and “pop” out all 4 limbs when you hear the ‘word of the day’ or when the music stops, etc.
Races – Incorporate a body sock into an relay race course. With two groups and two courses setup, start with a suitcase full of clothing/props, put it all on over your clothing, run through the course, take off the clothing/props, pack it back in the suitcase and run back to the starting line, passing the suitcase to a teammate. Use the body sock as you would a pillow case or potato sack to race, run, or hop across the lawn.
Quiet space – Establish a sensory safe zone in an area of your child’s room. With a tent, canopy or blankets built as a fort, minimize visual input in a busy space. Include soft pillows, stuffed animals or preferred textures inside. Offer a body sock for some deep pressure input while using the quiet space. Consider layering or combing sensory tools - you could try a weighted lap pad or shoulder wrap on top of or underneath a body sock. Let your child seek out that space as needed. Encourage your child to use it afterschool, following a demanding activity, before bed, or as part of a transition.
Reading corner –With some comfortable seating, pillows, child sized chairs, lamps and a few book shelves, establish a reading area that is on a kid-level. Offer a body sock to really get ‘wrapped up’ in a book! Add a body sock to a book boat – an extra layer of sensory input – where kids can climb in a small space to get cozy and read a story. Add flashlights for fun! Another option would be to include a body sock into sensory strategies for getting some homework done. It’s easy enough to add to any sedentary activity.
Fold it up – Who said you even had to wear the body sock? Fold or twist the Lycra fabric and use it as a rope! Pull a friend on a scooter board or swing with it, play tug of war, embrace the stretchy property of the fabric.
Body socks are great tools for home, the classroom and an outpatient therapy setting. It is the perfect addition to a traveling therapist’s bag of tricks. Flexible and multipurpose – a body sock has benefits for clients who have sensory difficulties, motor delays, autism, attention issues, and beyond.
If you have considered a body sock for your child or pediatric client, I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to use it!
Molly Shaw Wilson, MS OTR/L BCP
Molly Shaw Wilson MS OTR/L BCP is a board-certified pediatric occupational therapist with 16 years experience. She owns a private practice and provides service in homes, community and school settings, as well as her outpatient sensory clinic. Molly enjoys working with young children and their families, focusing on parent-child interactions and home routines. She is a regular contributor to a parent blog about typical development. Her professional interests have stemmed from her certificate work in assistive technology, hippotherapy practice, and consultation to a nature-based program in New Hampshire. To find out more about Molly, please visit her website at www.trainingwheelsnh.com