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A Guide On How To Help A Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

Written by Nicholas Crusie — February 17, 2021

A Guide On How To Help A Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

Approximately 5 to 16 percent of school-aged children have sensory processing disorders. SPD makes it difficult for someone to process the stimulation surrounding them. 


This disorder can cause a hypersensitivity to different sounds, textures, tastes, and smells, as well as attention deficit issues in some cases. 


Whether you’re a parent of a child with SPD, a teacher of children with SPD, or you’re looking to understand how best to treat someone with SPD, we’ve put together a guide on how to make things as smooth-sailing as possible for them. 


Something To Remember


Before we begin, we’d like to acknowledge that these are simple suggestions. You know your child better than anyone else. Therefore, feel free to absorb bits and pieces of the information in this post as you see fit. 


Modifications and customizations of these guidelines are expected, welcome, and encouraged. 


Establish Daily Routines


Children with Sensory Processing Disorder tend to appreciate a well-organized routine. Not only does a daily routine help to keep them focused, but it can also help prepare them for the experiences they’ll be having throughout the day. 


Starting the day off with a well-balanced breakfast is always a great idea. Your child will get used to having breakfast around the same time each day, and they will look forward to sharing their morning time with you. 


Having a self-esteem-focused conversation with your child before they start their day could really boost their confidence and keep them engaged. Let them know what the day ahead is going to be like so they aren’t shocked by certain plans. 


If you have the time, doing a puzzle or incorporating a quick, mentally stimulating game together before school time is a perfect addition to any morning routine.


Keep The Home Organized


As hard as it is to keep a house with young children neat, organization in the home will really help a child who has sensory processing difficulties. 


Here are some ways to keep things in order:


  • Toys should always be returned to the same spot after being played with.

Putting things back where they belong is a great lesson to teach any child, but specifically, children with SPD may appreciate this ritual more. When there is a well-oiled system in place, kids with sensory processing disorders will tend to feel less overstimulation and experience less anxiety. 


We can guarantee that the lack of toy-filled mess we’re suggesting will surely reduce stress levels in both you and your child. 


  • Storage bins in the home should have clear labeling on them.

Labeling the bins in your house is another system that will help a child with SPD. They will be more at ease knowing they’re aware of where everything goes and where anything can be found if they need it. 


Too many miscellaneous objects lying around may cause your child with SPD to panic. Distinct labeling should be added to just about every room in the house, as this will provide your child with a sense of clarity. 


  • Create a physical calendar and a physical chore chart for your wall. 

If you make an effort to put visual systems in your home, we can guarantee you’ll enjoy the results. Having both a calendar and a chore chart on the wall will inform your child about what day it is, what’s coming up next in their schedule, what to do before they go to bed, etc. 


These systems instill time management, activity planning, and responsibility. If you’re up to it, grant your child a small reward each time they stay focused and get everything done! 


But also remember that some days are going to be harder for them than others, and that’s okay too. Good habits take time to form.


Try a Sensory Sensitive Diet


Food is something that most children with SPD struggle with. Tasting new things can be overwhelming and even panic-inducing. Sensory Processing Disorder can cause your kid to be quite fussy when it comes to which foods they like and which foods they don’t.


Not only can children with SPD be picky regarding taste, but also regarding smell. Smell is a sense that can’t always be fully avoided at mealtime if others are eating something your child isn’t.


If your child has sensitivity issues at the dinner table, make note of what kind of sensitivity they experience. There are two main types of food sensitivity when it comes to children with SPD:


Hypersensitivity


Children with hypersensitivity to food can be thrown off by any taste or smell that isn’t bland enough. Meals with chicken, pasta, or bread are usually popular among this grouping of kids. No surprises, no worries!


Hyposensitivity


On the other hand, children with hyposensitivity to food will actually seek stimulating foods with more adventurous tastes. These foods are most likely dressed up with hot sauce, pepper, or other powerful seasonings. 


How To Help with Trying New Foods


There are additional factors such as texture and color that may steer your child in the direction of certain types of food. If you can, hiding vegetables in dips, soups, and sauces is a good way to make sure your child is getting the nutrition they need.


While it is tempting to encourage your child to try new foods and expand their palette, we recommend that you don’t rush this process. 


Once you find a pattern that they like (for example, trying one new food each week), you and your child may both find it useful to make some sort of game out of it. 


Depending on your child, you could even write the name of that week’s new food on the calendar so that they don’t feel shocked when the time comes to try it out. 


An Extra Tip


A tactic which many people have found useful while introducing their sensory sensitive child to new foods is having them hold the food on their tongue for about 10 seconds. 


If the taste doesn’t bother them, they are encouraged to take a real bite and chew. If they have an aversion to the taste within that first 10 seconds of taste bud-touching, it’s probably not the food for them. 


Have a Texture-Friendly Space For Regrouping


Touch is a very important sense for children with SPD, as certain textures can easily upset someone with a sensory disorder. Just as there are certain textures that disturb children with SPD, there are certain textures that comfort those with SPD. 


We recommend dedicating a space in the house for your child to go when they feel as though they need to regroup. 


This could be a safe space for when they’re panicking, a space to unwind towards the end of the day before bedtime, or even somewhere to relax after returning home from school. 


It is important to give your child breaks between tiresome activities, especially if basic stimulation tends to overwhelm their senses and drain their energy. 


In this regrouping space, we highly recommend you incorporate a soft, plush bean bag chair. These chairs measure thirty-two inches by thirty-two inches, and they are perfect for any child who needs some downtime. 


The exterior of this bean bag chair is made of micro fur, an irresistibly soft fabric that was inspired by a child’s favorite blanket. Meanwhile, the interior of the chair couldn’t be more luxe, stuffed with extra polyfoam stuffing. 


Some of the best qualities of this chair are its convertibility and its portability. 


The bean bag simply converts into a youth-sized bed that measures sixty inches by sixty inches - spacious enough for two children if need be. 


Due to the fact that this chair only weighs twenty pounds, it can easily be put in the trunk of your car and transported to wherever you may be traveling - whether that be a family member’s home, a vacation rental, or a hotel room. 


Your child will never want to go a day without spending a few minutes in this bean bag chair. The soft texture is bound to soothe them on any occasion. So, if you find your sensory sensitive child fast asleep in the chair, don’t be surprised - we warned you about how comfortable it is!


Create a Crash Pad


Believe it or not, you can also use a bean bag chair from CordaRoy’s as a crash pad that your child will love. If you’re not familiar with the idea of a crash pad, they’re a tool often used by therapists that are designed as a place that a child with a sensory processing disorder can calm themselves by “crashing” into the things around them. 


When you create a designated space for your child to do this, filled with bean bag chairs, soft pillows, and padding, you can ensure that they’re being completely safe while still jumping and crashing to their heart’s content. 


One Last Reminder


We would just like to include that depending on the age of your child, it’s a good idea for you to explain to them that other people’s houses may not have all of these organized systems in place - and school may not have every single one either. 


It’s important you “fill your child in” so that they aren’t totally shocked by the different rules and aesthetics of foreign environments.


In Conclusion


We commend all of the parents out there who care for their children with special needs on a daily basis. We know it isn’t always easy, and we hope this list of ideas can help your little one get through the week with less stress and more calm. 


As we stated before, Sensory Processing Disorder is not a rare disorder. Many adults cope with this disorder each and every day, and while certain experiences can be a bit of a challenge, all your child truly needs is love and support in order to grow into the wonderful human being you know they’ll become.


Sources: 


Breakthrough Study Reveals Biological Basis for Sensory Processing Disorders in Kids | USCF

Understanding sensory processing issues | Understood

Sensory Processing Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment | webmd.com