Stressed Out?

Children’s ability to regulate sensation-the process of noticing, organizing, and integrating information from the environment and their body and then processing and responding appropriately-greatly contributes to self-regulation. Many children with sensory process difficulties related to various body systems, demonstrate externalized behaviors. Such behaviors may include shying away or intensively reacting to loud noises, bright lights or being held, as well as seeking constant and intense input through repeatedly crashing into walls or banding toys. The externalized behaviors listed above can lead children to be impulsive, distracted and seemingly ‘out of control.’

When parenting a child with sensory processing difficulties, one may feel frustrated when the child seems to intentionally be ignoring your requests or purposefully being naughty. The perceived intentional defiance and negative behaviors can contribute greatly to parental stress and relationship strain. However, it is important to remember that a child with poor sensory processing may react to the caregiver or his/her environment in ways that are unpredictable or seemingly without reason because he/she is ‘uncomfortable’ in their own skin. Neurological studies have identified differences in brain functioning in children with poor sensory processing when compared with the brain functioning of children without reported sensory difficulties.

The results in the reviewed study, highlight the notion that addressing behavioral problems without understanding and addressing accompanying sensory difficulties may hinder progress in treatment as targeted behavioral difficulties may mask underlying sensory processing difficulties. When working with a professional, it is advised you ask any and all questions you may have. It has been found that increasing parents’ understanding of the possible neurological basis of the behavior may provide an understandable explanation of the problem behaviors, may help illuminate additional pathways for treatment, and could increase parental understanding and empathy of their child’s experience and difficulties. It is always important to seek out professional help when concerned about possible sensory processing difficulties and the sensory needs for each child is diverse. A few simple sensory activities you could try at home and easily incorporate into your day have been listed below. • Use of a vibrating toothbrush

• Adding sour (lemonade powder) or spicy flavors to foods

• Hang head over the couch while reading a book, or during screen time

• Army or snake crawls in the hallways

• Help sweep, vacuum and transfer wet clothes from the washer into the dryer

• Log rolls

• Calming music

• Warm shower/bath before bed time

• Cold glass of water in the morning

As a clinic, we have completed a review of the article titled, “Sensory Processing Difficulties, Behavioral Problems, and Parental Stress in a Clinical Population of Young Children.’

Gourley, L., Wind, C., Henninger, E. M., & Chinitz, S. (2013). Sensory Processing Difficulties, Behavioral Problems, and Parental Stress in a Clinical Population of Young Children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22(7), 912–921.