COULD IT BE SENSORY? THE REASON WHY SOME KIDS HAVE A HARD TIME COPING
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COULD IT BE SENSORY? THE REASON WHY SOME KIDS HAVE A HARD TIME COPING

Updated: Sep 21, 2019



They can be very intelligent, but may be picky eaters, have daily meltdowns, sensitive to sounds, smells, light, textures. Some hate getting dirty or can't stand when their bare feet touch the grass. Some eat nothing but noodles.


They may seem impulsive and hyper active or lethargic. They may refuse to wear warm clothing even when it's very cold, perhaps they dislike certain shoes or specific types of clothing.


They don't cope well with change in routine and take a while to adapt after any type of transition. It may be hard to get them in the bath, and seemingly impossible to get them out again. Bedtime could be a nightmare.


Some of them have a hard time getting along with other children and may even be aggressive. They may battle to play with smaller toys and become completely overwhelmed by frustration.


There may be underlying reasons for this kind of behaviour. Some people have difficulty receiving and interpreting information from their senses and this can make them feel hopelessly overwhelmed. It can interfere with their daily living and make even seemingly easy tasks very challenging.


We all have limits when it comes to sensory input; I cannot even stand the thought of a paper straw for example. It is when these limits interfere with our daily lives that sensory processing disorder may be diagnosed.


It may affect one sense, some of the senses or all of them. The inconsistency of the symptoms make it very hard to recognise for us as parents. Some days your child may be able to get up and dress himself, but on an overstimulated day, he won't. Something he did just yesterday may be an insurmountable task today. He would do anything to avoid the situation and if he can't, a complete meltdown is guaranteed.

I am not an occupational therapist or medical professional, simply a mom who would like to spread awareness and empower other moms to seek help.

A child with sensory issues may be able to hear perfectly, but have trouble processing that information correctly. Here are some possible signs of sensory challenges or even sensory processing disorder:


SIGNS OF TACTILE CHALLENGES


Over-responsive children may show the following signs:

  • They cannot stand messy play and would do anything to avoid it (fight or flight response)

  • Aggression, fear or anxiety

  • They don't like standing close to others in rows

  • A minor injury will be a major issue - they totally over react

  • Certain clothing, shoes or socks may cause great distress

  • Refusing to walk barefoot on sand or grass

Under-responsive children may show the following signs:

  • The need to touch everything... it's almost like they crave touch

  • Injuries, bumps, cuts or bruises don't seem to bother them

  • Putting all kinds of objects in their mouths

  • Hurting pets or friends when playing

  • They absolutely love messy play

  • They may at times hurt themselves, for example by banging their heads against something.

SIGNS OF AUDITORY CHALLENGES


Over-responsive children may show the following signs:

  • Certain sounds may be too much to handle, such as the vacuum cleaner, toilet flushing, etc.

  • Running away, closing ears, screaming (fight or flight)

  • Inability to block out background sounds and easily distracted by them, for example a car driving by

  • Refusal to attend sports activities, parties, amusement parks, the cinema or any activity associated with noise

Under-responsive children may show the following signs:

  • Don't seem to hear when their name is called - appears oblivious

  • Just being noisy - making sounds or talking loudly all the time

  • Directions need to be repeated over and over again

  • Excessively loud television or music

  • Trouble understanding or remembering something that was said

  • Often talk themselves through tasks out loud


SIGNS OF VISUAL CHALLENGES

  • Dislike or avoid visual perception type of activities such as puzzles

  • Have a hard time copying words or drawings accurately

  • Even though their fine motor skills are fine, their handwriting is poor

  • Reversed or inverted letters when writing

  • A hard time seeing differences between similar letters or numbers

  • Battle to learn letters or numbers

  • Struggle with reading


We're all aware of the five senses, but there are three additional less known senses that impact the way we perceive the world significantly:


1. PROPRIOCEPTION

This is our sense of body awareness and body position without using vision. It decides how much force is required for an activity.


Sensory seeking children may show the following signs:

  • Wearing clothes too tightly

  • Enjoy deep pressure from hugs, lying under things or being wrapped tightly

  • Crashing, bumping, climbing, falling or jumping

  • Pushing, pulling and dragging objects

  • Hitting, bumping or pushing other children

  • Chewing on pencils, straws, their clothing and other objects

Body awareness signs:

  • Easily frustrated

  • Lack confidence

  • Too much or too little force when writing

  • Closing the car door too hard, pressing too hard when writing, play too rough

  • Misjudging the amount of force needed to pick things up

  • Often break toys or objects

2. VESTIBULAR SENSE

The sense of balance and movement that provides information regarding the position of our head in space - the perception of space and our orientation. It influences nearly everything we do, affecting posture, balance, movement, arousal level, coordination, attention and impulsive behaviour. These children may have difficulties with certain school subjects such as reading, writing and math.


Over-responsive children may show the following signs:

  • Prefer sedentary activities and avoid playground equipment

  • Clumsy and frequent falling - they are therefore more careful and move slowly

  • They may be fearful of feet leaving the ground

  • Can feel sick or dizzy due to movement, as with motion sickness or never get dizzy from excessive spinning

  • Difficulty finding objects, they may feel lost in their environment

  • Slouches and prefers lying down and may seem weak

  • Physically cling to adults they trust

Under-responsive children may show the following signs:

  • Jumping, swinging, running, climbing, rocking, twirling, spinning and similar activities and can take great risks in these areas

  • Find it hard to sit still and concentrate best while their bodies move - they are in constant motion

  • Love swinging as high as possible


3. INTEROCEPTION

Here is a list of the senses that fall under the category of interoception: anger, embarrassment, fear, happiness, excitement, thirst, heart rate, nausea, the need to go to the toilet, pain, muscle tension, itch, sexual arousal, social touch, hunger or fullness, breathing rate.


You can imagine that a child who battles in this area, would have a hard time potty training.


GETTING HELP

If you recognised these symptoms please know that there is hope and there are many ways in which you can help your child.


What you can do at home

There is much you can do at home to help your sensory child. It takes time and patience, but if you put in the hard work, you're sure to reap the rewards. With sensory kids, traditional methods of discipline seldom work. Always remember to preserve the relationship above all - seek to understand before correcting. Some say "connect before you correct."

Here are some things you can do:

  • Learn all you can about sensory issues, so that you're able to understand your child's behaviour better. I recommend the book called THE OUT OF SYNC CHILD HAS FUN

  • Communicate with your child: "Mommy can see that the light is bothering you." When we model this behaviour, our children will learn to communicate what is bothering them.

  • Use the names of emotions, so that your child learns to communicate accurately how they feel: "Mommy can see that you're overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, or tired." Or: "Mommy can see that you really need to chew something right now to get rid of your frustration."

  • Help your child to find solutions: "The light is very bright, would you like to sit here in the shade, or shall we get your sunglasses?" Or: "Mommy can see that you're very frustrated with that toy, let's go hit a punching bag to get rid of the anger."

  • Affirm the child's emotion without allowing negative behaviour: "Mommy can see that your body is really overwhelmed at the moment, but we do not throw toys. If you are going to throw something one more time, we will have to put the toys away."

  • With sensory children, there will more likely be a million small victories rather than huge leaps. Notice each small victory and celebrate your child for it.

Getting professional help

I would say the very first step would be an assessment by an Occupational Therapist, who will be able to refer you to any additional professionals such as speech therapists or play therapists.


Here is some more inspiration if you're feeling really overwhelmed right now: DEAR OVERWHELMED MOM


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