How do I help my child with sensory difficulties?
For kids with sensory processing issues or difficulty processing information from the senses, some situations can create feelings of overwhelm, overstimulation, and confusion. So what can parents do to ease kids’ sensory overload? Prep, prime, and plan! Empower them by having an escape plan and/or safe word ready if they need to leave a stressful situation and hide out for a while.
“All kids typically feel good when there’s a plan in place,” Dr. Stutman tells us. Parents can make books with their kids, whether with writing or art, that explains what is going to happen, when, where, and even why. You can use the book to practice with your child “so they feel like they have an internal representation of what to expect,” she says. “And that’s far less frightening.”
Toys, tools, gadgets, and assistive technology can be your best friend when it comes to planning, especially when sensory overload and anxiety are involved. It’s not a one-size-fits-all model, so knowing what your child’s unique needs are can help you find the best tools for them. Some gadgets Dr. Stutman recommends are noise-canceling headphones, pop-its, fidget cubes, chew necklaces, magnet balls, squishmellows, and fidget rings.
A lot of these tools help kids feel grounded in the present moment instead of focusing on what’s causing them worry or anxiety in their environment. They can also help regulate emotions when things feel overwhelming.
For more information on helping your child avoid sensory overload during social situations like the holidays or travel, see this article.