Whether you're going to a restaurant or heading to the playground, getting out of the house with your children can be a lot of fun. However, for parents of children with sensory processing disorder, it can also be a real challenge.
What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory processing disorder, or SPD, is characterized by being over- or under-sensitive to outside factors (for example: loud sounds, unexpected touches or scratchy tags on clothes). While many children who are on the autism spectrum also have some level of sensory processing disorder, not all children with SPD are on the spectrum. SPD can also cause social issues, child behavioral issues, child anxiety and more. As you can imagine, it is important to approach outings with children who have sensory processing disorder in a thoughtful way. Here are four tips for parents of children who are overly sensitive to their surroundings.
Tip 1: Plan and Review
Many children with SPD need a set routine with little room for variety. If you hope to go out on a family adventure, be sure to plan it ahead of time. Using a visual calendar with a young child can be a great option, as it will help them not feel taken by surprise. Make a plan for the outing and go through it with your child several times leading up to the event. While it can be fun to be spontaneous, it could also lead to anxiety or meltdowns in a young child with sensory processing disorder.
Tip 2: Choose the Right Place and Time
One easy way to nip issues in the bud is to choose the right place and time for your outing. Would you like to go out to eat? Consider the environment first. Going to a secluded cafe with outside seating would be better than a packed and loud restaurant. This provides not only a peaceful environment, but also the option to go for a walk if your child gets overwhelmed. Once you have a place in mind, use Google's handy sidebar feature to see when the restaurant is the least populated and plan accordingly.
Tip 3: Make Getting Ready a Breeze
Children with SPD may need accommodation for tasks such as getting dressed or leaving the house. When choosing clothes for the outing, it can be helpful to stick to softer items, such as loose sweat pants and cotton shirts with wide necks, instead of stiff jeans or scratchy turtleneck sweaters. To help get out of the house painlessly, be sure to have everything ready the night before. This way, you can focus on helping your child transition instead of distractedly running around the house when it's time to leave. You can also create a morning "get ready" schedule (see tip #1) to assist your child with the process.
Tip 4: Pack the Right Things
You'll want to be sure to bring the right supplies with you on your trip. A change of clothes will be helpful if your child is sensitive to small spills of food or liquid on themselves. Some children benefit from fidget toys, earplugs to block loud levels of noise, essential oils to mask unexpected smells, or small familiar snacks to occupy themselves. Make sure to have your sensory-friendly bag ready to go the night before, so you can leave the house with ease.
Of course, no parent is an island. There are many resources for working with young children or getting help for student who struggles with SPD. Just like you can find a learning program for attention issues, there are also programs for kids with sensory processing disorder to help them adjust to their environments. Raising a child is a unique and delightful challenge. Consider working with the experts at Brain Balance Achievement Centers to help your child succeed.