“For the love of all things holy and good, WHAT IS THAT NOISE!?”
Yes, I yelled this.
No, it wasn’t my finest moment.
Yes, it happens about 37 times a day at my house.
We’re all fine.
My kid is legit humming, clapping, jumping, climbing, or crashing into something basically ALWAYS.
Here’s the thing about kids with sensory needs: Most parents have zero clue what they really are.
Read that again, Sharon, before you give me the side-eye in church or expect me to react to your crazy glances over the bananas in the produce section.
I’m a former educator and someone with 20+ years experience working with youth with special needs and my own child’s sensory processing disorder diagnosis was one of the last he received. I had no idea. I just didn’t see it. Sensory processing disorder used to simply be considered a byproduct of certain diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder. But, as with anything, we are learning and advancing and (thankfully) becoming less exclusive.
Does your kid (or you):
-hum or make noise for no reason
-clap or snap often
-dislike loud noises
-avoid bright or flashing lights
-need to jump/climb/bite/kick everything
–chew on non-edible things (straws, clothing, etc)
-sensitive to smells
-dislike certain clothing materials
-refuse certain foods bc of temperature or ‘how they feel’ or smell
-complain that the shower pressure is painful
-walked as an infant or still walk on tiptoes
This is not at all an exhaustive list, but it’s a start.
Sensory processing is a HUGE part of everyday for every person, regardless of their ability levels. It is one of the most commonly missed or mis-diagnosed for extreme children even though it arguably can cause more interference than some more ‘difficult’ diagnoses and is a co-occuring condition with MANY behavior disorders.
People can be sensory-seekers or sensory-avoidant. Many of us fall somewhere in a mystical overlap of the two so we manage day-to-day by developing ways to cope with things we don’t love.
But for those of us who become overwhelmed by sensory input or require a large amount of it, we can find that it affects us in MANY ways throughout the day.
For people who aren’t sure they understand sensory stuff, here’s an illustration…
Imagine you put on a wool sweater. It’s itchy and wildly uncomfortable. It distracts you and becomes all you can think about. Your boss talks and just sounds like the teacher from Charlie Brown. All you can focus on is how badly you want to take it off, even though it matches your new boots perfectly. Many of us would just put on a comfy tee underneath so the scratchy wool stops irritating our skin. But for someone with sensory overload, it feels like every part of them is constantly inside of an itchy sweater that they can’t escape. It. Is. Awful.
So, what do you do if you think your kiddo may have some sensory concerns?
In our loooonnnggg journey of diagnosis and mental health/behavior experience, the first thing to do is to talk to your GP or pediatrician.
Just remember that YOU. ARE. THE. EXPERT. ON. YOUR. KID. (or yourself) The end.
If your doc doesn’t listen or dismisses your concerns, fire them. Boom! Bye, Felicia. Next!!
Getting a referral from your doc is important since behavior specialists for kiddos are few and far between. The wait times for initial appointments can be up to 18months (you read that right…it’s insane).
So, make the appointment.
You don’t have to do anything with the info they give you. That’s your choice.However, it can give you a lot for insight into your kiddo and struggles they may be having that are driving you insane so you both know where to start to improve things. This may look like play therapy, yoga, occupational therapy, martial arts, sensory goals, or something else.
If you or your child are a sensory-seekers, you can start by incorporating some simple strategies, such as:
-a sensory hammock or swing
–gym mats for jumping/wrestling
-a punching bag
-provide a base layer of compression clothing under regular clothes
-heavywork: lifting, carrying, anything requiring physical excursion
-allow a chew necklace to save clothing
If you or your kiddo are sensory-avoidant you can try:
-allowing noise-cancelling headphones whenever necessary or requested
-allowing them to wear gloves
-change your shower head to one that will work for the whole family
-avoiding strong smells-providing divider plates for meals so food doesn’t touch
-try clothing without tags or large inner seems or even turn socks inside out
Regardless of who you are or how well you tolerate sensory input, create a safe space in your home. Here’s what I mean by that:
-Let your kiddo choose the place because that empowers them and makes it feel less like punishment should they need to go there. They want it to be under their desk!? No problem!
-Let them decorate it how they want-
-choose cool, muted tones that soothe, avoiding reds, oranges, and neons.
-Incorporate sensory stuff like pillows, rugs, bean bags, hammocks, swings, tents, different textures, headphones, soft music or meditation apps, things they can throw/hit/tackle/scream into.
-Establish safe space rules. Ours are:
-Anything is allowed in the safe space because everything here is totally safe for me and those around me.
-I can ask to “take time” anytime I’m feeling overwhelmed and retreat to my safe space.
-I can use anything in my safe space as long as the goal is to help calm and not to harm myself or others.
-If I can’t calm down on my own, I will ask for help.
Sensory stuff is HARD, mama. And that’s okay.
It doesn’t mean you’re failing.
It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong during your pregnancy, childbirth, infancy, or yesterday. However, because our senses affect just about everything, it is important that we recognize these needs both in ourselves and in our children so that we can find healthy ways to cope instead of letting them to continue to trigger our big emotions.
This is especially true if you are one type of sensory processor and your kid is another. (I am mostly sensory-avoidant and our son is a hardcore sensory-seekers which makes me CRAZY!
)Friend, you are a powerhouse of a parent.
Knowledge is power; so start here, educate yourself, and take steps to get what you need for you and/or your kids.
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