I have some major sensory issues. Different textures and sounds even smells can cause me physical pain. Growing up that was just called being a weird kid by the Drs. Now we know so much better.
Sensory processing disorder is a real thing and even kids without it can still struggle with sensory processing from time to time triggering breakdowns and behavioral issues. If your child is experiencing sensory overload they can act out or shut down.
There are several things you can do to make life easier and help your child cope with sensory overload.
Identifying your child’s sensory struggles.
After a while, sensory parents learn their child’s breaking points. Identifying these is key to helping your child cope with sensory overload. In school, shopping, and holiday parties your child can struggle more than normal.
Take a moment to look at the situation and find things that normally set your child off. Are too many people talking at once? Is the room crowded? Does it smell strong of a mix of perfumes and fragrances?
Handling your child’s sensory overload
Simple tricks can help your child cope with sensory overload and recover. By packing simple items you can be prepared for your child’s struggles and ready to come to your child’s rescue.
Dealing with sound is easy if you come prepared. I like to keep a set of sound blocking headphones in my purse for situations like this. When a child gets overwhelmed by the sound it can lead to headaches and anxiety. Calm music of your child’s favorite music to block out other sounds can be soothing and give your child an escape to regroup.
To help your child cope with visual overload you can pull out some simple dark sunglasses to tone down the brightness of the room and make it feel less overwhelming.
If the room is too busy distracting your child with a game on your phone or a coloring book and crayons from your bag can give your child something to focus on that is not moving.
Help your child cope with sensory struggles with smells in the room by pulling out a handkerchief or bandana with a few drops of your child’s favorite calming essential oil. Have your child hold this to their face and take a few calm breaths to cover the crazy overwhelming scent of the room.
Help your child cope with sensory overload with understanding, not punishment.
Often when children are struggling with sensory overload they will act out. Cry, scream, or perform actions in which they should not in the situation. When your child is struggling punishment is not the best course of action.
It can leave your child feeling like you do not care about them and their needs. Pull them to the side and talk to your child about their needs and help them get control of the feelings taking over their little minds and bodies.
A great way to help someone that does not struggle with everyday sensory issues is this simple example most people can connect with. Children with sensory overload often feel like a person sitting in a room with someone continuously scraping nails against a chalkboard. If you had to sit through that you would be struggling as well.