Children with sensory sensitivities often have trouble enjoying everyday activities like play dates, sports, and school functions. Extreme sensitivity to noise, crowds, touch, textures, bright lights, bothersome clothing, and new experiences are often so overwhelming for children with sensory problems that it can ruin their lives and the lives of their families. When symptoms are severe enough to interfere with daily functioning, it is often referred to as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and can exist simultaneously with attention deficit/hyperactivity and anxiety disorders and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Here are some helpful tips to manage sensory sensitivities that will enable children to focus on the important tasks of growing, playing, and thriving:
Earn Their Trust
Children with sensory difficulties often seem to be in “fight or flight” mode most of the time. It is important to let your child know that you understand his/her issues are real and that you are working on developing a clear plan to help minimize his/her stress and sensory overload. Although this may sound simple, it is important that parents follow through with what they say, especially with children who have special needs. This will help your child feel confident that you are in charge, that he is safe, and that you will be his advocate.
Manage Sensory Exposure
If your child has sensory problems, it is critical to stay ahead of known triggers to minimize the amount of stress that your child experiences and to prevent possible meltdowns. For instance, for children with hypersensitivity to noise, try providing them with a quiet place at home that they can go to when they feel overwhelmed and need a break. For older children, it may be beneficial to provide them a watch or timer so they know exactly what time a bothersome activity or environment will end. If your child has extreme sensitivity to particular types of clothing, go through his/her wardrobe together to determine which pieces are tolerable and which ones aren’t. It is also important to be an advocate for your child by explaining to others what sensory problems are and how they can help minimize your child’s distress. Creating small sensory kit, which includes ear plugs for noise, fidgets to keep hands busy, and post it notes to cover sensors on automatic toilet and hand driers can be helpful for dealing with sensory problems when you are on the go. It may also be beneficial to include some headphones and a music player with their favorite music or a book for older kids. Staying ahead of your child’s sensory sensitivities by being prepared can go a long way in minimizing distress.
Schedule Quiet Time
If your child is hypersensitive to sensory stimuli, particularly noise and touch, he/she may benefit from scheduled quiet time. Wake your child 15 minutes earlier in the morning to enjoy a favorite activity before school. Whether it be reading, playing with a toy, or a game, make sure your child is quiet and undisturbed. Give your child at least thirty minutes of quiet time after school to rest and reset before bombarding him/her with questions, commands, chores, or homework. Before bed, allow another 30 minutes of down time to decompress. Swinging and rocking are beneficial for organizing the senses, so quiet time can include those activities as well.
Seek Professional Help
Could your child with sensory sensitivities benefit from increased confidence, better motor skills, and improved sensory processing? New Horizons Wellness Services offers occupational therapy services that integrate physical, sensory motor, and cognitive exercises that help your child become empowered and reduce or eliminate negative symptoms and behaviors. Contact us today and learn more about services.
Yours in Health,New Horizons Wellness Services
13333 SW 68th Pkwy,
Tigard, OR 97223
New Horizons Wellness Services provides a true multidisciplinary approach to mental & physical health treatments for children, adults and families.