Over the years I have met many children who were either overly sensitive, or not sensitive enough, to the world around them. Today, sensory integration disorder, sensory processing disorder and sensory issues are phrases that get thrown around by educators and therapists frequently. But for parents these words can be scary and unclear. When we describe for parents some of the ways these challenges present themselves, they can begin to clearly picture their children and are relieved to know “it’s not supposed to be that way.” Struggles with sensory processing can be exhibited in a variety of ways. Young children who have a hard time managing external stimuli can be loud, aggressive and act out, they can be quiet and withdrawn, or they can be somewhere in the middle. What I try to help parents understand, is that these children are not trying to be difficult. The environments in which these children live can actually feel painful, scary, or disorienting.
I’m often hesitant to recommend reading materials for parents because most books and articles, as they should, cover the gamut of symptoms and behaviors that can be associated with sensory processing disorder. That can make them initimating and alarming. That being said, my core beliefs point towards empowering parents through education and support. I recently came across these two articles from the Child Mind Institute (the 3rd in the series of articles should be out shortly), that I thought were informative and might be helpful: “Sensory Processing Issues Explained” and “Treating Sensory Processing Issue.” I’m also partial to Carol Stock Kranowitz’s, The Out of Sync Child and her book of activities, The Out of Sync Child Has Fun. In the past I have mentioned the SPD Blogger Network that offers an incredible online community for parents of children with sensory processing disorder to share their thoughts, concerns, challenges and triumphs. Occupational and behavior therapists, parent educators, sensory gyms, and other professionals are incredibly helpful in identifying sensory issues and supporting children, parents and families as they learn to manage these challenges and integrate coping strategies into their daily lives. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out for help. We’re here for you!