It might help to read a story book book upside down.
The holiday season reminds me that while we all have our sensory preferences, the holidays bring an onslaught of new ones that can be challenging. I like the smell of vanilla, and you may not. That is a sensory preference. But you may have a sensory processing disorder if the smell of vanilla makes you feel physically ill. That isn’t a typical response at all!
Children who over-respond to sensory information from their environment often appear controlling. Don’t you and I try to impose order when things feel chaotic?
First, here are tips for helping children who over respond to sensory information, especially during the holidays.
Speak with a soft voice in short sentences. Avoid filling in silence. Count down. Waiting is a skill that has to be learned. Don’t expect it to magically appear during the stressful holiday period. Teach it during games like follow the leader. Use instructions to “start” and “stop” moving and then introduce “wait” for an increasing number of seconds. Practising waiting during fun and relaxing times can help make sure the skill is there during more stressful ones like the holidays.
Add chewy foods to snacks and drinks through a straw. This muscle work through the mouth is calming! Give your child something to carry, push or pull (great gift shopping helpers). Use calming scents. Remember your perfume or cologne may not be calming to your child. Carry some pocket fidgets. Be predictable! Follow a routine, yes a routine!
And plan in advance to avoid the rush. Easier said than done, but it’s worth the absence of meltdowns.
Children who under respond to sensory information from their environment may appear lazy. They aren’t!
They seem hard to get motivated or engaged in any particular activity. And the holiday season is filled with lots of activities. So what can you do? Introduce the unusual, odd and funny. Add bursts of sensory or movement input that is unpredictable. Break out carolling! Add balance and core muscle strength to your daily routine together. Spice it up with tastes and smells in what you eat and drink.
Do everything you can to get your child’s head out of the upright position. How funny is it to read a story book upside down, hanging off the bed? Being upside down is alerting!
Children who crave sensory information never stop moving. But just adding more movement isn’t helpful. Create opportunities to move with a clear start and stop and function. So bring in the shopping bags from the car one by one. Go to the mailbox for a daily walk to see if there are holiday cards instead of just running around the house. Endless jumping jacks can just help a child get disorganized, but three series of 10 jumping jacks might just do the trick.
Assign specific jobs and chores that include movement and muscle work. Organized, engaged movement helps everyone feel better. The holidays are full of extra to-dos! Make the “work”, work for your family!
Do you want more sensory strategies? I have written an eBook full of tried, true and tested ones. Download Sensory and Behaviour: Strategies.