In a wonderful article from Understood.org, an organization that helps parents with kids with learning disabilities, author Amanda Morin discusses a relevant topic that gets little to no attention. “Summer is a time for relaxing,” she writes. “But some of the sounds, smells, and sensations that come with the fun can overwhelm kids with sensory processing issues.”
Sensory processing issues, also known as Sensory Processing Disorder, is a condition where the brain has trouble receiving and responding properly to sensory input signals like touch or sound. The condition affects both children and adults and may manifest itself in a wide range of symptoms. In children, symptoms of a sensory processing issue may include sudden temper-tantrums or crying fits at seemingly common sounds, like a door shutting or a dog barking. Children with sensory processing issues may also recoil in disgust and vomit at certain food textures, scream when touched, or even frequently bump into walls or people.
First identified in the 1970s by occupational therapist Dr. A. Jean Ayers, sensory processing issues do not just affect the five common senses – touch, taste, smell, sight, sound — but seven. Ayers identified two more senses — proprioceptive and vestibular senses — which Dr. Tim D. Davis broke down magnificently in a guest blog post about effective sensory path design right here on the Fit and Fun website.
During the summer months, when everyone is outside and enjoying the nice weather, parents who have kids with these special sensitivities often find themselves overwhelmed. Morin identifies eight ways that parents with kids with sensory processing issues can “challenge” themselves, but we’ve decided to add a few more to her wonderful list.
- Sit on the grass. Because kids with sensory processing issues can become easily overwhelmed by the pricking sensation of grass on the skin, especially when it gets hot, pick a cool spot in the shade. Let your child run their hands first through the grass until they’re comfortable. Then, if able, have them take their shoes off!
- Limit sun exposure. Summer gets hot! Sometimes, kids with sensory processing issues can become easily agitated under the hot sun, especially at the beach or during a sporting event. If you’re one of the estimated 60 million Americans who will go to the beach this summer, make sure to bring an umbrella or two. Better yet, bring a tent specially designed to keep kids cool and relaxed. And don’t forget the sunscreen!
- The quieter the better. Kids with sensory processing issues can often become suddenly overwhelmed by seemingly everyday noises. The sound of a motorcycle, the clunk-clunk of feet on a boardwalk, can change a calm day into a nightmare scenario for parents in the briefest moments. If your options are limited, try to get away from the crowds as best as you can.
Do you have a child with sensory processing disorder? If so, what are some precautions you take when going out? Let us know!