So I was reading an amazing blog post showing what a typical day might look like for a child with sensory processing challenges, and it inspired me to dig a bit deeper and create this video. We'll be going over a typical day for Mary, an elementary schooler who is often misunderstood by her teachers, friends and other family members. We'll see how some of her sensory issues affect her life in school and at home. And in the end, we'll even go over a few of the best ways to help your child with their sensory challenges. But before we get into the video, here's a quick summary of five common issues kids face with sensory processing disorder.
Number one is hypersensitivity. This means you might be over-sensitive to your environment. Things like bright lights, particular sounds, certain textures, flavors or smells, even small amounts of these sensory inputs can be overwhelming.
Number two is hyposensitivity. This means you might be under-responsive to your environment, so certain sensory input simply doesn't register. So you could have hurt yourself with a scraped knee, for example, but not even notice it.
Number three is sensory seeking. These are kids that are practically bouncing off the walls and can never seem to sit still. They want to smell, climb, chew, and crash into everything. And if you've got a seeker, I'm sure you may have heard others, who don't get it, tell you that your kids need more discipline.
Number four is sensory avoiding. For avoiders, even the senses of everyday life can be challenging, making it tough to learn and make friends. Avoiders are picky eaters, cover their ears at noises, and hate brushing their teeth, among other challenges.
Number five are meltdowns. Meltdowns are caused by a reaction, not being able to handle the sensory overwhelm, which makes it challenging to regulate emotions since a meltdown basically puts a child in fight or flight mode. To others, this might look like a temper tantrum of a spoiled child, but it's just a reaction to an overwhelming amount of sensory input. They can't help it.
Any of these sounding familiar?
If so, I think you'll really enjoy this video showing a typical day in Mary's life, a child with sensory processing disorder.
6:14 AM. Beams of sunlight shine through Mary's curtains, waking her up before her alarm. She hides under the blankets to shield herself from the bright and irritating light, but she remembers how loud her alarm is and doesn't want to be startled by it if she falls back asleep. Mary waits until the alarm is right about to go off and quickly shuts it off to avoid the noise.
Sensory related issues:sensitivity to light and sound
7:00 AM. Mary gets stressed but quickly feels uncomfortable with a tag on the back of her shirt. She insists on wearing her favorite soft t-shirt and leggings even though they're dirty. For breakfast, Mary asks for her milk in a separate cup so she can pour it in her cereal little by little. Otherwise, the flakes will get soggy and feel gross in her mouth.
Sensory related issues: sensitivity to clothing and food textures
7:30 AM. Mary is rushing to get to the school bus on time, but she's having a hard time putting on her coat and tying her shoes. She kind of hopes she misses the bus. It's always so loud and crowded, and it's hard to find a seat where she doesn't feel squished by other kids.
Sensory related issues: trouble with motor control, sensitivity to touch
10:00 AM. Mary loves doing math in school, but she keeps getting distracted when she sees other classmates in the hallway. She's also feeling a bit anxious and has trouble staying in her seat. She asks her teacher if she can move to a desk away from the classroom door and grab her wobble cushion and kicking fidget.
Sensory related issues: sensitivity to sight, sensory seeking
12:00 PM. At lunch, Mary can't manage to go into the cafeteria. Her teacher's confused as no one else seems to mind the smell of the fresh sandwiches, but it's too overwhelming for Mary and she gets even more overwhelmed when trying to explain. She has a meltdown and ends up eating in the school office after she calms down.
Sensory related issues: sensitivity to smell, meltdowns, and emotional regulation
4:00 PM. Mary has a blast at the playground. She loves climbing, jumping off the equipment and running around with her friends. All the tumbling makes her feel calmer. She doesn't even notice that she scraped her knee until someone points it out. Mary remembers falling, but it didn't hurt so she had kept playing.
Sensory related issues: sensory seeking, under-sensitivity to pain.
6:00 PM. It's dinnertime and Mary doesn't like mixing all the flavors and textures. She keeps all the foods on different portions of her plate. When her mom asks her to try the refried beans, she protests, saying that mushy food makes her gag.
Sensory related issues: sensitivity to taste and food textures
7:30 PM. Mary stays outside of the shower because the water temperature just isn't right. Her mom says it's nice and warm, but for Mary it's too hot. And tonight is hair washing, meaning slimy shampoo and painful combing. She begins to get upset but feels relieved when mom says she can skip the shampoo.
Sensory related issues: sensitivity to touch, including feeling temperature and emotional
So I hope you enjoyed and learned a bit about what a typical day might look like for a child with sensory processing issues. Now, as parents and teachers, how can we help a kid like Mary?
Here are three of the best ways:
Number one is pay attention to your child's cues and ask her to explain what sensation is bothering her. Look for patterns and take notes to help you find solutions that work.
Number two is begin creating a sensory lifestyle around the patterns that you discover. Find times of the day where you can easily bring in sensory input to help your kid meet her sensory needs at home.
And number three is test out different sensory activities that provide unique sensory inputs. Swinging, body compression, trampoline jumping and finger painting are all great examples. Slowly begin to notice what your kid loves best and how it affects their sensory processing throughout the rest of the day.
And lastly, I put together an awesome gift for you, the Sensory Secrets Activity Guide. It has over 115 exciting activities you can try with your kid at home. These activities are not only tons of fun, but it can help your child thrive by restoring balance to the sensory system.