You are your child's expert on their sensory difficulties. We can help you, and guide your further but ultimately all advice will be based on your observations and experience of your child's sensory problems. You will find that you have naturally adopted many of the strategies presented here through a process of trial and error and possibly exclusion. None of them are specialist techniques nor will they do your child harm if you apply them incorrectly. If a strategy technique is not working within a few weeks cease using it.
These strategies focus on assisting you and your child to cope with everyday sensory challenges - they are not designed to change your child's sensory system.
Here we have compiled activities, exercises and strategies that may help your child. Many of these have been collated into one easy reference booklet produced by the Neurodevelopmental Specialist OT.
There are also many online videos that give good advice and you can access these on our Videos and other Online Sensory Resources page.
It is difficult to offer generalised information when it comes to children with sensory issues but to get you started here is some basic guidance:
For children who are constantly seeking certain sensory inputs it is best that they participate in the sensation that they are seeking and encourage them to do this as much as they want but in a safe and socially/ age appropriate way. If they have the need to chew, for example, seek out things that are designed to be chewed to reduce choking possibilities and make sure they are age appropriate (e.g. use chewelry, ice cubes, chewing gum, toothbrush etc, instead of dummies if they are older children). If you know they are going to go into a situation that requires them to be calm then do some quite intense sensory work with them prior to the activity. Feed the systems that need feeding.
If you can, keep an open line of communication with your children. Always explain what they are going to do and when, what it may involve - ask them if they can think of anything that would help them cope in that situation. Afterwards debrief about the experience. Let them know that you know it's difficult for them.
It's important that your child is in control of their sensory flow at all times to prevent overload and frightening your child. Permission should be sought from them before engaging the child in play that they may find threatening (rough and tumble for example) and give them a keyword to say when they really feel they have had enough. If you have to handle your child then warn them that you are about to do something and talk them through it - give them time to respond. Never impose sensory input on them without their expressed permission.
Sometimes children will surprise you and do activities that you would never expect them to given their sensory history. Often the thought of the outcome of the activity can override difficulties in the sensory pathway to achieving the activity, for example, overcoming balance and movement fears by going on a rollercoaster may increase a child's self esteem and standing in a peer group, or overcoming tactile issues to be able to make a delicious bread.
Whatever the sensory needs of your child there is no excuse for behaviour that causes harm to others such as biting, scratching, punching and kicking. These are behavioural issues and need to be dealt with using a behavioural approach. These issues become learned behaviours very quickly and no amount of addressing their sensory needs will impact on these if they are entrenched.
Is it really that important to stop your child engaging in a particular behaviour? Ignore where possible if it isn't self injurous, socially inappropriate or a danger to others. Children often move through phases of engaging in habits that have potential to worry and annoy parents - usually these are just short-term issues before they move onto the next challenging habit.
Children that sensory seek need to move in order to feed their system and regulate their responses. Children that avoid sensory information should be encouraged to move in order to develop their responses to sensory input. Try to build daily gross motor experiences into routines.