Sensory processing/integration refer to how we take information from the environment and our response to this input. We all try and adapt to this information, but sometimes it looks like a “behavior” or interferes with daily routines.
Some children may be “seeking’ input their body needs by crashing into things, running around or looking at things up close. Other children may be “avoiding” input that is likely to be overwhelming by covering their ears, not liking bright lights or refusing certain foods.
Parents, teachers and other caregivers can incorporate strategies to help children be more successful and happy during these activities.
Bath Time: Try a variety of different soaps and lotions. Use a wash cloth or a bath brush on your child to provide different tactile input. If your child doesn’t like baths, use warm water, soft cloths or just your hands with deep, slow, steady input (just like a massage). This input will be more predictable and calming.
Mealtimes: Encourage your child to help prepare meals or bake by ixing the ingredients or rolling dough. This input stimulates their muscles and gives that deep pressure that can e calming and organizing. You child may not like different foods, during meal time talk about and allow your child to explore the different foods textures, flavors, colors, sizes, etc. To start, it’s more important they touch, smell, or even lick the foods before they get to the step they will “eat” the food. Drinking from a straw is good exercise for your child’s mouth. Other exercise that allows the child some movement at the table is to have them sit on an air cushion or pillow.
In the Community: Your child can help push the heavy cart at the store and help put the groceries away once home. Having your child help with household chores such as vacuuming, moving furniture, or having them help carrying the laundry basket or the detergent can be good “heavy work” for calming/organizing. While out in the community, have your child carry a weighted backpack with books, or have them try chewy/crunchy foods for this same input. Many children with sensory processing disorder need to know what to expect next, so when unexpected things occur, they need to have enough warning about it. Try giving your child a “commercial or preview” as to what their day is going to be like with pictures of where they are going.
Play: During play time help and encourage your child to build obstacle courses around the house, incorporating different movements for the obstacle. You can also play sandwich with your child, have your child lie in between two pillows like a sandwich and apply pressure, ask the child if they want harder/softer and making the input different ingredients (e.g., long strokes can be mustard, pats are pickles, etc.)
April is Occupational Therapy Month. A child’s “job” is to play and learn skills to be more independent (e.g., dressing, feeding self, grooming, etc). Occupational therapists work with children on fine motor skills/using their hands to manipulate toys and other times, assist with daily routines and provide strategies to normalize sensory processing. The America Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is a great place to start to find a therapist in your area. Pediatric Interactions works with other professionals, including OTs and can assist you with a referral.