Sensory processing is the brains ability to detect and respond to sensory input it receives from the body, other people, and the environment. Young children (toddlers and preschoolers) often respond well to adapting the environment in order to help them process sensations better. Below are some categories of sensory processing problems and some possible ways to adapt their surroundings:
1. Over-responsiveness: these children over-respond to sensations by getting upset, avoidance, shut-down, and/or anxiety.
- Reduce clutter on the walls and floor: this can over-stimulate these children. Organize the room and remove the excess wall decorations. Put toys in containers and baskets versus scattered all over.
- Go shopping at times that are less crowded versus a chaotic time like Saturday
- Give them plenty of space when they are playing next to another child, this reduces the chances of accidentally getting bumped or hearing noises perceived as annoying
- Don't let them be a loner, this is a sign of being over-whelmed. Pair them up with a calmer child on the playground or a calmer sibling at home
2. Sensory Seeking: these children can't seem to get enough of movement, touch, noise, etc. It is like they are driven by a motor. Adaptations include:
- Make sure they have lots of toys and opportunities for movement: swing set, trampoline, tunnels, bicycles, scooterboards
- Give a variety of opportunities for play during daily routines: bath tub toys while bathing, textured fabric on high chair seat or chair cushions, bag of toys to fidget with during car rides, bag of toys to fidget with while in a cart/stroller for shopping trips, etc.
- Look through catalogs that sell sensory integration products. There are many toys made especially for these children. Look for the words "vestibular" and "proprioception" equipment
- Let them sing songs with motions: "wheels on the bus" or "ring around the rosie" are good choices
- As you play with them, have them pretend to be an animal and set the room up for such. If they are crawling around pretending to be a bear, then add large pillows to the floor or crawl through tunnels. Make believe play is good, especially at home when you don't have the expensive sensory integration equipment that is at therapy clinics
Stay tuned for Part 2 to cover the other categories of SPD/ sensory processing problems. Also check out some ideas for working with babies with sensory processing problems at
Would finish now, but I am off to go play with my two children on the floor as we pretend to be snakes slithering on our bellies to provide imaginative play and tactile input to our bellies!