1) For Uncontrollable Outbursts:
If your child is in a sensory meltdown it can look like a tantrum. The big difference is that the response is so intense it is more like a fight/flight/freeze/shut down response (e.g. the feeling you might have if you found a spider or snake crawling on you). If it is a sensory meltdown, he will not be able to calm quickly just by getting his way.
The important thing is to realize that your child is not trying to manipulate you. Your child is in distress and does not know how to calm himself. Try to assess what may have triggered the meltdown and reduce that stimuli if possible.
For example many children with sensory processing problems react negatively to fluorescent lighting. If there is a way to reduce this stress it can help calm your child. You could use your coat over a shopping cart to create shade from the lighting while in a store.
Another common trigger is noise. If you are able to reduce the noise by moving to a quieter area that will often help your child to calm down. Often noise cancelling headphones are helpful. Creating a sensory retreat in your home can be a wonderful tool for preventing meltdowns and recovering from them. It can be as simple as a blanket fort with pillows.
Once you understand common triggers for your child you can often prevent meltdowns by avoiding over stimulating your child. Deep pressure can be very calming for some children (e.g. a bear hug or a side hug).
2) When your child’s activity level is much different than his peers:
The most common reason we see here at Ohana OT is due to poor core strength and poor body sensation of position and movement. It is very common for these children who are constantly moving to actually be physically unable to sit calmly for more than a couple of minutes.
An occupational therapist can evaluate your child to determine if there is a physical reason that your child won’t stop moving. She can then help you provide activities to help your child become more aware of his body and develop the physical strength in his trunk to sit for longer periods of time to function better with day to day tasks.
Your child will probably benefit from lots of outdoor play time, swimming, and helping with chores like vacuuming or moving a basket of laundry (“Heavy work to the muscles”) which help him feel resistance to his body increasing his ability to feel his body in space.
3) For over sensitivity to light, sound and touch:
Children are often oversensitive to stimuli of the outside world when their internal body senses of movement and position in space are off (which makes them basically feel uncomfortable and stressed). It is important to find out the root of the problem and an occupational therapist trained in sensory processing disorders can help determine why your child is struggling.
Your over sensitive child may benefit from some simple adaptations such as using lamps in the classroom and avoiding fluorescent lighting. Also, wearing a hat and sunglasses if needed when out in the community is helpful.
When sounds are too invasive it may help to listen to something else that is comfortable (e.g. familiar music, white noise of a fan), use ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones. Occupational therapists also have special programs to help with systematically helping your child to be comfortable with a full range of sound frequencies.
If your child is very sensitive to light touch on his skin he may be extremely picky with clothing. Wearing a comfortable soft undershirt can help. Also snuggly fitting lycra clothing works well like a “second skin”. Make sure that your child had some protection against unexpected touch will help him to feel safe (e.g. be in his field of vision before you put your hand on his shoulder).
Ohana OT can help!
Contact us today to speak with a member of our team to learn how we can help make life better for you and your child.