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Friday, September 30, 2011

It's A Gakky Kind Of Day

Mixing it up

What it looks like at the beginning stages of kneading

"Remember life before "Gak"?  Ask any parent of a child with sensory integration dysfunction and they'll probably say, "No"!  More telling, they'll probably add, "is life worth living without Gak? "why would anyone do that?"  The rest of you, either NT's  yourself (neuro-typicals) or parents of NT's are no doubt already lost in this conversation and are seriously considering flipping pages to the next blog.  No worries, Gak is one of those wonderful playtime activities that transcends labels of "dis" and "ability"; all kids are fascinated by it and most, if not all, will at least try to touch it at least once. 

Gak is an ooey-gooey substance that is silky to the touch and flows through your hand like cooled pudding.  You can easily hide little toys in it and have your kids try to find them, and it easily washes off of most surfaces (except upholstery and carpetting).  It doesn't "stick" to your skin exactly but you can hold it.  It's something you'll just have to try for yourself.  We make our Gak on the kitchen floor, or another surface that can be easily wiped up with a sponge, and it's a good idea to have your kids wear short sleeved shirts as they're making it so it doesn't get everywhere.  Even making the Gak is a GREAT sensory experience, as you have to knead it for at least five minutes to incorporate LOTS of air into the mixture from the beginning so you can develop the gelatinous goo.  Today when we made our Gak, it might have been the humidity level, or maybe my daughter didn't "work it" hard enough in the early stages, but after a few minutes the water was still completely separated from the glue/water and borax/water mixtures, so I got out my handy-dandy stick blender and whipped some air into it, and within a minute we had Gak (if you use this trick, be sure not to keep your stick blender in the runny mixture for too long or you'll burn up your motor).  It quickly developed into the thick and gooey Gak we all know and love and my daughter was thrilled.  Depending on how your child reacts, whether your child dives right in or just pokes a finger in it, can be very telling as to his sensory status at that moment; is he sensory averting or sensory seeking? 

I was first introduced to Gak when Hayden was a wee little toddler, not yet walking, talking or feeding himself and our daughter was an infant. We were in a sensory integration playgroup for adoptive children and the brilliant Occupational Therapist, Debbie, who taught us oh-so-much-about-brain-and-all-things-sensory/behavior introduced it to us and all of us parents thought it was manna from heaven for our kids.  Our son, who was only 16 months older than our new baby girl, had super low muscle tone and lots of texture aversions.  The first time he ever beared weight on his legs, he was standing against a kidney-shaped table with his other little friends, hand elbow-deep in Gak.  If I could find that picture I'd post it here--it's precious.  So what was happening in Hayden's little body at that time was that his mind was so focused on the feeling and texture of the gak, that he forgot about his legs for a few minutes and stood strong (albeit his hips and knees were "fixed" in position, definitely not optimal, but it was a starting point and I don't think any PT would mind too much!).  As soon as our daughter was old enough to put her hands in the stuff, she did, with our help and LOVED it from the first second.  And the rest, they say, is Gak History.

Fast forward a decade and we still love the stuff.  Our daughter was having a rather tough morning dealing with some sensory stuff (often we can never tease out of the soup exactly what is going on at any given moment).  She had already bounced a little on the trampoline and kicked a plastic ball against the hedge and the back of the house until she felt better (and she was rewarded with beads for letting her dad and I help her through that "chaosy" moment and then taking our suggestions).  We read a little bit more in ancient art history (you can never know too much about high and low relief, cameo, plaster casts, and so on...) and then I suggested making some Gak.  Her eyes instantly lit up and we got to work.  Of course we made it blue, because blue, well blue is just simply THE BEST COLOR EVER, according to the Aspie.

Here's the recipe:

 In one medium blow, mix:

 *one cup of hot water

*one cup of white glue

In another medium bowl, mix:

 *one cup of hot water

 *1TBSP Boraxso (or Borax) hand cleaner

 * Add 2-3 drops of food coloring if you wish

 Mix the two bowls together using your hands! Be sure to knead in all of the water. It may take 5-10 minutes of kneading.

  Store gak in an airtight container, and keep for up to a month.

 Fun things to do with GAK
 *Hide toys or small objects (marbles work really well)

 *Use a straw to blow gak bubbles and make silly noises (blowing through a straw is a VERY good sensory thing to do when a child is disorganized or unable to control him/herself-it centers the brain)

 *Squeeze, stretch, jiggle and poke

 Things to AVOID with GAK:

*GAK is not yummy or edible

*If left sitting on a flat surface, gake will find its way to the floor and make a MESS

*Keep away from carpet and upholstery

"Squishing it is SO much fun!"

Blowing bubbles

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