There is so much I could talk about when it comes to sensory issues in our home. I’ll only focus on a few of them so this post isn’t too long. 🙂
By the way, if you missed the first 2 posts of this series, click here to catch up.
What are Sensory Issues?
Sensory processing is how we perceive the world through the different senses. These senses not only include visual, hearing, touch, taste, smell, but also vestibular and proprioceptive.
An article from Parents Magazine explains what these 2 senses are very well: (Kids Who Feel Too Much)
“Vestibular refers to movement sensations such as swinging or going down a slide.”
“The proprioceptive system provides information to the muscles and joints, like telling the legs to apply more pressure when walking up stairs than when walking on flat ground, for example.”
Our Little Man has sensory processing problems in almost every single one of these areas, but the ones I’d like to address here are touch, vestibular, and proprioceptive. (I’ll be discussing his taste sense in a later article.)
Sense of Touch
Bath time has always and continues to be a huge issue in this house. He HATES having his hair washed, and sometimes he hates taking a bath. He’s getting much better, but honestly, I dread bath time. We have “made a deal” with him that he will have a bath twice a week. (Please don’t judge me; we do wash his hands and face every day. And he’s not a stinky middle school boy yet.) On the weekends we wash his body, and on Wednesdays we wash his hair. I’m just not ready to add anymore stress to his life or mine in this area.
He also always has to be wearing socks. And he prefers long sleeves too. Although he does make exceptions for short sleeves. On school days, when he has gym and art, he tells me he wants to wear short sleeves. He he gets too hot in gym, and if he wears long sleeves in art he gets his sleeves messy, and he HATES to be messy.
I never thought I’d have a boy in my home who hates to be messy. He’s actually worse than our Goosey Girl, who loves to bury herself in the sand at the beach. If he gets too sticky, or has paint on his hands, or gets dirty from being outside, he wants to wash his hands right away.
When our girls were 5 or 6, we bought them each a bike. They LOVE riding their bikes. It’s the one thing they look forward to every spring when all the snow is gone. Our son, on the other hand, has no desire to ride a bike whatsoever. Our occupational therapists worked with him on this during his therapy last summer. They’d have hop on a huge swing and ride a scooter on the floor, while lying on his belly. He needed to get used to having his body in different positions so he wouldn’t feel so anxious and afraid about riding a bike.
Last summer I bought him a scooter with 3 wheels. He loves it. I think it gives him a bit more stability than a bike. We’re going to introduce a bike to him with training wheels this summer and see how it goes.
Our son responds very well to hard, firm touch. When he sits next to me, he is always pushing against my body so much that I soon find myself leaning to the side and my back just killing me. Also, if I’m on the computer, and he’s sitting next to me, I have to ask him to constantly move over because I can’t type with him basically sitting on my arm.
When he sleeps with us, (mind you he’s asleep when he does this), he will snuggle himself up against either his Dad or I, to the point where one of us is falling off the bed. We’re not sure who’s worse in our house, the dog or our son? 🙂
If I get out of the bed to get ready in the morning, he will automatically move on the other side of the bed next to his Dad. (It’s actually really cute, and I do love snuggling with him.)
What I described really isn’t that big of a deal. What worries us is what he does to himself when he gets upset.
He will hit himself with books, his hands, or whatever is lying around. He will run into us and push us, with his entire body, when he’s upset. He’s done this to me countless times.
All of these issue on their own really are not that bad. When they all seem to collide together on the same day, then that’s when the meltdowns can occur.
I do want to offer a few solutions that have helped us with these issues. I don’t have many but we have a few that have worked, and I’ve already mentioned a couple of them.
For the sense of touch, it helps our son to know what to expect. This is why we came up with a schedule for his bath time. And he asks me every single time, “Is today hair day or body day?” He does keep track because he does not want to wash his hair anymore than he has to.
We also have bought pants and socks that he likes. He prefers sports pants, that are elastic or that you have to tie. He is not a fan of jeans, but we found a pair at a local department store that he likes.
For the vestibular sense, we’ve made concessions. For example, instead of making him get on a bicycle, which would’ve caused a huge meltdown and unnecessary anxiety for all of us, we went with a scooter, to help him get used to what it felt like to balance on something.
For proprioceptive sense, we learned a lot from our occupational therapists. Through trial and error we discovered what our son likes and what he doesn’t.
He loves to be under heavy blankets and pillows. During the winter time, when we’re home, he likes me to cover him up with 2 or 3 heavy blankets, and a few of our pillows, while he’s laying on the floor with his tablet or with a book.
My husband is great at wrestling with him. I know lots of kids like to wrestle with their parents but this really helps our son, especially in the evening. It fulfills that sense of pressure that his body needs.
We’ve also used massage and what’s called the “Wilbarger Protocol”, which is a combination of joint compressions and brushing of the arms and legs. I’ve pinned an infographic about what this is on my Autism Resources Pinterest board.
There are also a few books that have been recommended to me regarding sensory processing. I have not read them yet, but they are on my Amazon wish list. Click on the images below for more details on each book.
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I hope I’ve helped you understand a bit more about what sensory processing is and how it can interrupt and wreak havoc on the life of a child.
Do you have a child with sensory processing issues? What strategies have you used to help your child cope with their out of sync world? Leave a comment below or on my Facebook page.