When we experience environmental stress, it is important for us to regulate the amount of arousal we experience to match the environment. This process involves sensory regulation strategies. In this blog, we want to show you how you can use these strategies to help your child.
While adults may be generally well-adjusted in regulating their arousal to fit their desire, children cannot always do this with ease. They may not know what is causing them stress, or be able to tell us about it. Sensory dysregulation in a child can manifest as hyperactivity, lack of focus, irritability, difficulty sleeping, or acting out. These non-preferred behaviors are stressful for parents, but they may be a sign of something beyond “kids being kids”. They may be a sign of some type of sensory dysregulation. Dr. Kevin Johnson, a pediatric and family chiropractor of the Center for Human Potential, enlightens causes of dysregulation and what parents can do about it.
The top of the spine controls the autonomic nervous system. Dysregulation can be caused by misalignment of vertebrae at top of neck, causing an interference with the nervous system. This interference, called a subluxation, is caused by stress, whether it’s physical, chemical, or mental.
Once a subluxation occurs, the body lives in a constant state of stress response. A prolonged state of stress response is taxing on the body, and can lead to long-term problems. Proper alignment of the spine removes the interference, allowing for free flowing sensory regulation. Getting an adjustment to the upper neck can return our body to its natural resting, healing state it can function in long-term. Some children display a decrease in hyperactivity and greater ability to focus after a vertebral alignment.
Sensory dysregulation can lead to overstimulation and eventually overwhelm. Prolonged overstimulation is stressful even for adults, whereas it can be especially troubling for children who do not know how to communicate their needs or advocate for themselves.
Overstimulation leads to many problematic behaviors and conditions: anxiety, irritability, difficulty sleeping or focusing, hypersensitivity to the neck and head, and/or hypersensitivity to noise. Have you noticed any of these issues in your child.
If you’re a parent, it’s important to keep in mind realistic expectations for your child. Between school and the therapies they need, some children have maxed out schedules. The busier your child is, the more important predictability is: create a visual schedule for your child so they know what to expect out of their day. Reduce physical strain on the eyes by breaking up reading into short periods, and limiting blue light exposure, particularly after zoom calls and before bed.
Sensory overload is even more imminent during distance learning. Maintaining calm and well-being takes a parent’s intuition of what their child is capable of given the expectations placed on them.
For more information about Dr. Kevin’s work, please visit The Center for Health and Human Potential.