Parenting Tips for Children with Sensory Processing Disorders

a woman with her daughter

Around the country, awareness of sensory processing disorders is growing, as is medical understanding of what these conditions are and how to address them.

Sensory processing disorders (SPDs) affect the way the nervous system receives and processes the senses—seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting—resulting in atypical and often unpleasant responses to otherwise normal stimuli.

Sensory processing disorders affect as many as 5% of children, and often occur alongside other neurological conditions like autism. Symptoms can include the following:

  • Picky eating or problem feeding
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Poor balance or dexterity, “clumsiness”
  • Child overreacts to certain sights, sounds, or smells
  • Child displays unusual aversion to physical touch
  • Poor sense of personal space
  • Sudden mood changes or severe temper tantrums
  • Difficulty with find motor tasks
  • And others

If your child has displayed these or other symptoms of SPDs for a significant period of time, seek guidance from a pediatrician or other specialist.

Tips for the Parents of Children with Sensory Processing Disorders

If your child has been officially diagnosed with an SPD, it can be difficult to know how to proceed. Here are some tips on creating a supportive and nurturing environment that allows them to navigate daily life as normally as possible.

Make a Schedule and Stick to It

Many parents find that creating a detailed, written schedule that their child can see and follow helps their child by letting them “know what to expect.” This can be especially helpful in the cases of kids with OCD, ADHD, or autism.

Get Help from Other Parents

Other parents of children with SPDs can offer a wealth of guidance and perspective. Find a support group or other community, either online or in-person, and don’t be afraid to ask advice. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to offer it if you think you’re able to help someone else. That’s what community is all about!

Keep a Journal

It can be difficult to keep track of what kinds of stimuli trigger your child’s SPD. Keeping a journal can be a good way to manage their triggers, and maybe even find patters that will serve you moving forward. (Journaling can also be a great way to help manage your own stress.)

Remember: Every Situation is Different

Your child is as unique as any other. Their SPD symptoms, and the best ways to address them, will reflect that. If some bit of common wisdom doesn’t help as much as you thought it would, or some bit of advice doesn’t resonate in practice—don’t worry. You’ll find what works best for you in time.

Consider Occupational Therapy

Many occupational therapists are trained to help children with sensory processing disorders overcome their difficulties and navigate the tasks and occupations of everyday life.

At Cheshire Fitness Zone in Cheshire, Connecticut,  our occupational therapists focus on creating the “just right challenge” by following the child’s lead to achieve an adaptive response (targeted skill), building a strong foundation for further development. We include parents in everything, from evaluation and treatment planning to help with working at home for optimal outcomes.

If you’re in Connecticut and would like to learn more about occupational therapy for your child, get in touch today.

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