Does Your Child Have Sensory Sensitivities?

sensory sensitivities illustration. The graphic shows signs of a sensory overload.
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Navigating the world of sensory sensitivities can often feel like a balancing act for parents of children on the autism spectrum. Sensory sensitivities are common in children with autism and can manifest in a variety of ways, such as difficulty with loud noises, bright lights, certain textures, and tastes. From hypersensitivity (over-responsive) to hyposensitivity (under-responsive), these sensitivities can impact a child’s interaction with their environment and those around them. Understanding sensory sensitivities is crucial in creating a safe, comfortable, and growth-oriented world for these little champions.

What Sensory Sensitivities Are All About

Sensory sensitivities can make life feel like a wild rollercoaster for neurodivergent kids and those with thinking and learning differences. But don’t worry! We’re here to help you and your child navigate this exciting journey.

What are Sensory Sensitivities?

Sensory sensitivities mean a child has stronger reactions to things they see, hear, touch, taste, or smell. Some kids might find certain things too intense or even painful, while others may want more of the same thing.

For example, your child might cover their ears when a fire truck goes by or refuse to wear clothes with tags because they feel too scratchy. These are signs that they might have sensory sensitivities.

Sensory sensitivities can cause children to be drawn to or repulsed by certain textures like macaroni that this child is playing with.
Read more: Food Sensitivity Test for Kids

More Than Just the Five Senses

We usually think of five main senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. But sensory sensitivities can also affect two more senses:

  • Vestibular: This sense helps us stay balanced and know where our body is in space.
  • Proprioception: This sense lets us know where our body parts are and how they’re moving.

Kids with sensory sensitivities might also have trouble with these extra senses. For example, they might struggle with balance or coordination because of their vestibular or proprioceptive sensitivities.

A World of Senses: Spotting Sensory Sensitivities in Kids

Kids with sensory sensitivities can react differently to things around them. Here are some signs to watch for:

Staying away from loud noises or bright lightsWanting intense sensory experiences (like spinning or jumping)Always touching objects or people
Not liking certain textures in clothes or foodNot reacting to pain or temperatureOften smelling things
Feeling overwhelmed in busy placesHaving trouble with body awareness and coordinationLooking for loud noises or bright lights

If you notice any of these signs in your child, it’s a good idea to start paying closer attention to their sensory experiences. They may have some sensory sensitivities that need to be addressed.

Sensory sensitivities can mean a child may want to bite things like this one who is blowing a whistle on the floor while looking upwards.
Read more: Autism Touch Sensitivity in Kids

Finding Your Child’s Unique Sensitivities

Every child is different, so knowing your child’s specific sensory sensitivities is essential. Explore some steps to help you address your concerns:

  1. Observe: Watch your child closely in different situations.
  2. Record: Write down their reactions to various things.
  3. Analyze: Look for patterns and triggers in their behavior.
  4. Consult: Talk to an occupational therapist or other experts.

Once you’ve gathered enough information, you can start to understand your child’s unique sensory needs. This will help you find ways to support them and make their world more comfortable.

Helpful Tools: Ways to Manage Sensory Sensitivities

Once you know your child’s sensory sensitivities, it’s time to find ways to help them feel more at ease and confident in their world.

Make a Sensory-Friendly Space

  • Use lights that can dim and headphones that block noise
  • Choose clothes made of soft, comfy materials
  • Have a quiet spot for your child to go when they need it

Making these small changes can greatly impact your child’s comfort and happiness. They’ll enjoy their surroundings without feeling overwhelmed by sensory input.

Sensory sensitivities can mean children want to experience more of certain textures and objects like this child who is playing with wooden shapes.
Read more: 5 Signs of Autism | Toddler

Try Sensory Strategies

You can use many different strategies to help your child manage their sensory sensitivities. Here are a few ideas:

  • Deep pressure activities (like weighted blankets or big hugs)
  • Tools for the mouth (like chewable jewelry or textured straws)
  • Movement breaks during the day

These strategies can help your child feel more calm and focused. They might also help them learn better ways to cope with sensory input that they find challenging.

Create a Sensory Diet

A sensory diet is a special plan of sensory activities made just for your child’s needs. Work with an occupational therapist to make a sensory diet that includes:

  • Heavy work activities (like carrying groceries or pushing a vacuum)
  • Vestibular input (like swinging or rocking)
  • Proprioceptive input (like jumping on a trampoline or squeezing putty)

Having a sensory diet can help your child get the right balance of sensory input they need to feel their best. It’s a great way to support their overall development and well-being.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Supporting Your Child Together

You don’t have to do this all by yourself! A support team can make a big difference for you and your child.

  • Connect with other parents: Share stories, tips, and resources with other parents of neurodivergent kids or those with thinking and learning differences.
  • Work with experts: Join forces with occupational therapists, teachers, and other specialists to make a plan for your child.
  • Teach family and friends: Help the people you love to understand your child’s sensory sensitivities so they can give the right support.

By working together, you can create a strong support network to help your child thrive in their world.

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As your child develops new skills, you can increase the difficulty level of the tasks in the app to challenge and motivate them even further. This helps your child grow and progress at their own pace, while also keeping them engaged and excited about their development.

Goally is the best tablet for kids because it's a tablet parents can trust. The text reads "Get a kid's tablet you can trust. No ads, 20+ learning apps, all parent-controlled."

Understanding the Sensory Adventure

Sensory sensitivities can be tough, but they also let you see the world through your child’s special point of view. By understanding their needs and giving the right help, you can help your child enjoy their sensory adventure and do well in their world. So get ready for a thrilling ride as you and your child explore this sensory rollercoaster together. With love, patience, and some detective work, you’ll help your child find a world of sensory balance.

This post was originally published on 04/17/2023. It was updated on 11/22/2023.

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We help parents teach their kids life skills, like doing bedtime and morning independently. Backed by science, we incorporate evidence-based practices and expert-informed designs in all of our apps.