How many of you have children who can’t stand to have clothes on, labels in their shirts, seams in their socks or the feel of certain fabrics? Or how about those children who will only eat foods with a certain kind of texture or who don’t like the feel of wind in their faces? Does your child have a very hard time with loud or high sounds? All of these are examples of sensory sensitivity.
Sensitivity to sensory stimulation is real to children. When a child is agitated by an unwanted sensation, it takes over his entire existence. He can’t process, enjoy or participate in anything else. Imagine a small stone in your shoe -- what are you thinking of? Getting to where you need to go? Dancing in the street? Nope; you can only concentrate on getting that irritant out of your shoe.
Kids have that same experience with senses that offend them. We grownups need to acknowledge those feelings and do what we can to alleviate them.
- We can find socks with no seams.
- We can dim lights or soften sounds in our home.
- We can acknowledge that loud sounds frighten our children and perhaps avoid places that might have loudness or offer ear protection.
- We can be mindful of how, when and who our children want to be touched by and respect that.
- We can watch for what is overstimulating for our children and intervene before it becomes overwhelming.
As responsive parents, we need to do all we can to provide secure and comfortable experiences for our growing children without over burdening their sensory systems.
Understanding how your child processes sensory input is the key to knowing what is normal development. If you have doubts, questions or concerns, you should consult your pediatrician. Another great resource is "Raising a Sensory Smart Child" by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske. Check out their website at sensorysmarts.com for a helpful sensory checklist.
Sensory processing coordinates brain and body and allows children to organize information and respond. Each child is unique in how she does that, some more sensitive than others. Understanding our children’s sensitivities, supporting them, but also knowing when expert help is warranted, is difficult. Helping our children manage in a complex sensory world is challenging. But that is ultimately what our children need from us -- for us to meet them where they are and to love them unconditionally. Let's be champtions for our kids!
Jeanne Labana, from Milwaukee, has been an educator for over 25 years. With 4 grown children and 8 grandchildren she’s experienced it all! She continues to teach parenting classes including Love and Logic, coach parents, and assist anyone touching the lives of children.