When you hear the term “sensory regulation” you might automatically think of special needs children. But is that all? While children with autism or sensory processing disorder may have very unique sensory needs, sensory regulation skills will affect all children, every day! An individual’s sensory regulation skills allow them to maintain an appropriate level of alertness in order to respond appropriately across environments to stimuli presented.
Let’s explore three categories of sensory processing, and how parents can meet their child’s needs in each area.
Movement activities should be chosen based on a child’s sensitivity to movement. Some children avoid physical sensation while others are sensory-seeking. Sensory-seekers are often the more active children, and may display behaviors that are often interpreted as “bad”, to receive the input they need. This can look like hitting, stomping, yelling, jumping, fidgeting, horse-play, etc. While these kiddos can give their parents and teachers a run for their money, directing their sensory-seeking tendencies into productive physical movement can change “hyperactive” behaviors into healthy, safe activities–and provide a child the relief they are craving!
Which of these toys does your child prefer?
- mini trampoline
- rocking horse
- sand/water tables
- playground equipment (swings, merry-go-round, sides, etc.)
Even if these props are not readily available, simple exercises such as pushups, somersaults, or yoga poses can be practiced almost anywhere.
Check out these guided dances kids can do at home!
Oral motor activities
This isn’t just for toddlers! Every child will have different individual needs, but all ages need tactile input through the mouth to concentrate or reduce anxiety. Keep some toys on hand like harmonicas, whistles, and kazoos kids can play with during breaks. While usually something we may discourage, the oral motor motion og chewing gum while working on a task can help a child concentrate. Other activities children can try are sipping yogurt through straw or blowing bubbles through straw.
We typically want to reduce visual stimulation as a whole, or at least take breaks from the bombardment of visual stimuli we receive all day long. Provide spaces for your child that are away from visual clutter. This reduces distraction and will help them feel at ease in their environment.
Take an “unplug” break! When your child takes a “break”, let this be a visual break as well. Reserve times for them where no blue light is present. This could be resting in a dim room or one with only natural light without screens. Simple relaxation activities like coloring or painting, watching fish swim, or looking at a lava lamp can help a child recharge from “visual overload”.
Implementing these changes at home and school contributes to a child’s sense of well-being–regulating the stimuli in one’s environment helps us create the peace and composure we need to thrive every day!
Watch our Parent Rep’s Parent Huddle all about sensory needs here!