So, you know all about the 5 senses, right? Pretty basic stuff. Sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.
As an adult you know which sensations you like and which ones you don’t. Did you ever wonder, though, how your child interprets the world around them, and how their senses perceive their environment?
Just like grownups, every child perceives things differently. Some love to get messy and dirty, while others can’t stand it. Some love the screaming and chaos of a 3 year old birthday party while others cringe. There is wide range sensations children tolerate. A quick question you can ask yourself to help figure out whether your child may need some help regulating their sensory system is:
“Does my child seek or avoid certain types of sensory input so much that it frequently interferes with their typical daily routine?”
If the answer is yes, you might want to seek the help of an occupational therapist familiar with sensory processing difficulties for further advice. In the meantime, here are some tips anyone can use to increase/decrease a child’s sensory seeking/avoiding behaviors.
Start small: Remember, the nervous system functions at a very primitive level. The “need” for your child to seek or avoid certain types of input feels, and is, very real to them. If you want to increase their comfort with finger-painting for example, don’t force their entire hand into the paint the first time. Take baby steps to increase their comfort level.
Repeat exposure: The more you see, smell, hear, taste or touch something the less offensive it becomes. Work through a gradual progression until your child tolerates what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you need to work on washing your child’s hair, start outside the bathtub first, and only wash the back of their head for a few seconds. Continue to build upon the successes you have.
Pick your battles: Many of us have our own little idiosyncrasies that we deal with each and every day. Your child comes from the same genes and is entitled (within reason) to their ‘quirks’ as well. Just because Jimmy loves to run barefoot in the sand and grass doesn’t mean Billy will also. Use your parenting instincts and decide if whats happening is something that needs to be addressed and resolved, or whether it can be accommodated with an easy, acceptable solution and save everyone’s sanity (i.e. water shoes at the beach).
Smart sensory integration can introduce your child to new experiences and make them feel more comfortable. Have you worked on any sensory integration with your children? How did it go. Please share your experiences in the comments below.
Happy sensory exploring!