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  • Writer's pictureDayna Sharp, LCSW

Sensory Processing and Anxiety

Tags. Socks. Underwear.

If you have a child that has a sensory processing issue, you might feel exhausted just reading those three words!

Kids with sensory processing issues have trouble organizing and responding to information coming through their senses. Some children experience sensitivity to light, sound, smells and/or tastes. Others may seek out extreme sensory experiences, crashing, jumping, climbing, squeezing, with little awareness of how they are impacting themselves or others. Kids with sensory issues may also have difficulty with transitions, new environments and/or changes in routine.

As you might imagine, living with sensory processing issues can be distressful, and many children may also experience anxiety. If children are sensitive to clothing, light, sound, taste, smell, it may feel like the environment is overbearing and physiologically unsafe. If kids are sensory seekers, they may receive negative feedback from their loved ones and other grown ups, and may experience insecurity that looks either like anxiety or even aggression.


Things You Can Do:

If you suspect that your child struggles with sensory experiences, make an appointment with an Occupational Therapist. They can evaluate your child, and offer a "sensory diet"--individualized activities to balance your child's nervous system.

If your child's anxiety interferes with your quality of life, find a reputable child psychiatrist and/or therapist.

Create and maintain a routine. Predictability helps kids feel safe!

Provide your child with a variety of different sensory experiences. Think: water, sand, play doh, aromatherapy, music, dancing, gymnastics, etc. If your child is a sensory seeker, the more activity the better. If your child is a sensory defender, take it slow, encourage new activities, but don't push too much. Give lots of positive praise!

Make accommodations as possible. Maybe its seamless socks, a rubber band around your child's chair, extra activity, quiet time as part of a regular routine, etc.

Seek to understand and to validate your child's experience. "I know you are more comfortable without shoes, but we do have to wear shoes to school. You can take them off as soon as you get home", or "I know it feels good for you to crash into me, but for me that hurts! Maybe you can play on the trampoline instead?"

Raising a child with sensory processing issues can be exhausting. It's extremely important that caregivers prioritize making time for themselves! Creating Space Counseling and Wellness can help children better understand their sensory experience and reactions, respond more appropriately and support families to maintain balance through it all...

Call to schedule an appointment today!



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