Helping Your Child Adjust to Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the brain has difficulty receiving and processing the information it gets through the senses. Some individuals with SPD are overly sensitive to the environment. Thus, the light touch of a cotton shirt may chafe the skin or normal, everyday noises may be overwhelming or painful to hear. Others with SPD may be understimulated by the environment. These individuals may be slow to respond to sensations or not respond at all to extreme hot or cold or to pain. SPD can interfere significantly with daily activities. As a parent, it is extremely difficult to watch your child struggling with SPD. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help your child adjust to SPD.

Sensory-Friendly Clothing: Your child's clothing can make or break his or her day. In choosing clothes for your child, you'll need to be aware of their preferences. If you have a sensory seeker, you'll want to find clothes that provide them with weight and compression whereas if you have a sensory avoider, you'll want to find clothes that have no seams, tags, or provide too much pressure.

Seamless socks and tag-free underwear and shirts are great options for sensory avoiders. For children who need compression or pressure on their skin, compression shirts, weighted vests, and sleeves are great options. Weighted vests can calm an overly sensitive child. Ask your child what they prefer and try things out.

Weighted Blankets: Weighted blankets are often recommended by occupational therapists for children with SPD for calming and sleeping. Weighted blankets help children with SPD pay attention and focus. They can also help decrease sensory-seeking behaviors. The weight of the blanket should be 10% of your child's body weight plus one additional pound. Thus, if your child weighs 50 pounds, a six pound blanket would be appropriate.

Brushing: Prescriptive brushing aids the body and brain to self-organize. Prescriptive brushing has many potential benefits including easing the transition between daily activities, decreasing the fear of being touched, and increasing the ability to pay attention. Brushing can also increase the central nervous system's ability to utilize information from the peripheral nervous system, which can improve movement, communication, coordination, and sensory modulation, according to OT Innovations. A special brush is required to use the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol. You can find instructions for the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol here.

Stress Balls: Stress balls can help increase concentration and focus, increase tactile awareness, and decrease stress. These may be great options for school-aged children to help them concentrate and focus in the classroom as well. 

Vibration: Vibrating products have many benefits for those with SPD. Vibrating products can soothe, calm, and help regulate your child's body. You can purchase vibrating pillows, mattresses, toys, play mats, chairs, toothbrushes, and hairbrushes to help your child cope with SPD. 

As a parent, it's incredibly difficult to see your child struggling with everyday activities. Fortunately, there are numerous tools you can use to help your child adjust to life with Sensory Processing Disorder. Continuing to educate yourself about the condition and the tools and resources available to those with SPD will help you help your child live a full and rich life.

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