If your child struggles with sensory processing or regulation, what seems like everyday things to neurotypical folks can be a challenge to overcome. Whether your child has been diagnosed or not, these tips below can help you recognize the signs of sensory processing issues and ensure your child is able to cope.
Pay Attention to Signs
Keeping an eye on your child for sensory overloads is important in helping them feel supported. Whether it is at family functions or social events, monitoring your child for signs should not fall on them alone. Signs of potential sensory processing overload could come in the form of facial expressions, fluctuating energy levels, tone and volume of their voice, and body language. Speaking with your child about these will help you identify the unique reactions your child will have before sensory overloads.
Educate Your Child
Teaching your child to recognize signs leading to sensory overload episodes can help them also cope better in potentially challenging situations. Ask open ended questions like what they felt right before a sensory overload meltdown. Hearing them describe things like jumpiness, a flushed face, bright eyes, or hurting and tight chest can also help you as you monitor your child for signs. Being open and willing to collaborate and learn together with your child sets up a supportive system.
Be Open and Willing to Educate Yourself
There are many resources such as books, podcasts, videos, and even classes on supporting a child with sensory processing challenges. Being willing to immerse yourself in this new information and learning about sensory processing challenges will help better prepare you for what to expect and how to best create a supportive and healthy relationship with your child.
Empower and Encourage Your Child
When talking about activities that could be potentially challenging for your child, ask them their input and thoughts. By allowing their voice to be heard and the opportunity to exercise choice, they will feel more comfortable and in control of their response to challenges. Asking them what they believe difficult parts of an activity will be and how they would like to manage these parts will best prepare your child and you for ahead.
Establish Collaborative Coping Strategies
Doing coping exercises together will help your child not feel alone when they do undergo a meltdown or overload. Some ideas for collaborative coping include finding a quiet room and listening to calming music, coloring or drawing together, going for a walk, playing a quick fun game, or performing some deep breathing exercises. This way, your child will feel more comfortable with you and also feel safer in potentially returning to the activity or event with you by their side.
Be Flexible and Realistic with Your Goals and Expectations
Plans might unexpectedly change and that’s okay. It is okay to feel disappointed when plans change, but also keep in mind it is neither you or your child’s fault. Being flexible and realistic with your own routines and expectations of your child will allow you to build a trust and connection with your child over time.