How to Support a Child with Sensory Processing Issues

stressed black girl covering ears

by Andrea Gibb | I’m Andrea Gibbs Born, raised, and still living in New York. I’m a work-at-home mom with a background in business development, strategy, and social media marketing. I’m a blog contributor at Baby Steps Daycare in Forest Hills, New York to motivate and educate other parents about how they can get their children ahead of the game in school.

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Sensory processing issues affect a child’s understanding and handling of sensory input. These are the problems children face when they develop normally or in abnormal ways. Sensory processing issues lead to learning difficulties and poor social skills, which can make school difficult for your child. Sensory processing problems might seem like a uniquely personal issue, but there is much you can do to help your child with their sensory needs.

As a parent, you serve a vital role in supporting a child’s development with sensory issues. It is important to recognize that you can play a big part in helping your child alleviate their difficulties. You have to be aware of your environment and be supportive of your child’s needs. This article will discuss how to support your child with sensory processing issues through various activities and ways. But first, let’s tackle the common signs and causes of sensory processing issues.

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Most Common Signs That Your Child
May Have Sensory Processing Issues

There are many ways to tell if your child has sensory processing issues. Here are four signs that could indicate children having SPI:

1. Your child is very sensitive to loud noises or bright colors.

2. Your child easily gets overwhelmed by non-stimulating environments, such as crowded places and public transportation.

3. Your child does not pay attention unless certain sounds or activities are going on around them, such as white noise at home, toys that make noises at school, and friends who can provide sensory input for them.

4. Your child often needs to be in the same room as a familiar person they like or someone they can ask questions of, if they have trouble understanding or processing sensory input, causing them to feel isolated and alone.

What’s Causing Sensory Processing Issues

There are many reasons as to how a child may develop sensory processing issues. It is important to understand that most cases do not have a single explanation. Children who are born prematurely, experience significant trauma, get less sensory stimulation than normal, or have certain medical conditions, might develop problems with their sensory processing. But these are not the only ways sensory processing issues can develop.

Sensory processing issues can be aggravated by ongoing stress in the home or by certain medications. Additionally, getting a haircut or swimming in a pool too quickly can cause your child to feel anxious or angry because they aren’t used to those new sensations. Often, kids will develop having sensory processing issues when they aren’t exposed to a new sensation often enough and when they don’t understand what happens when they encounter new situations and emotions.

It is important to understand that kids with SPI need your help just like any other child does. So, you must be committed to helping your child. You need to start by looking at how to support your child with sensory issues in a variety of ways.

6 Ways to Support Your Child with
Sensory Processing Issues

You can help your kids manage their sensory processing issues by providing them with the following supports:

1. Educating Yourself

It is essential to educate yourself about the condition. You can start by reading books and articles on sensory processing issues. Once you are aware of what the condition entails, you will better understand how to assist your child in their daily activities.

2. Exercise Empathy

Try to exercise empathy for your child’s feelings and thoughts. Empathy is a key ingredient to helping kids with sensory processing issues manage their frustrations and learn how to control their emotions and behaviors. You should show empathy when they experience anxiety or stress by taking time out of your schedule or even offering a soothing hug if they need it most.

3. Educate Your Young Child

Talk to your child about how to process sensory input and how things work. Ask them questions about how they feel when exposed to different stimuli and what they do when they feel overwhelmed. You should also take the time to teach your child about their bodies and other people’s bodies. Educating yourself and modeling empathy will be very helpful to support your child with their sensory needs.

4. Be Prepared for Sensory Processing Challenges

It is essential to know when your child is going through a tough time so that you can be prepared for their sensory issues. By educating yourself, you’ll understand what it takes to prevent your kid’s brain and body from becoming overwhelmed. Make it a habit of being prepared for any overload your child may encounter. 

Some activities outside of your normal routine provide challenges for children with SPI, so come up with things you can do to keep tantrums at bay. Such as:

  • Keep kids well-rested and well-hydrated as much as you can.
  • Carry some healthy snacks. Proteins like cheese, turkey, yogurt, or crunchers like crackers, carrots, and nuts are sensory-rich.
  • Always bring a travel-sized coloring book and crayons for younger children.
  • Bring a backup of his comfort toy or lovie blanket.

5. Teach Your Child To Recognize and Understand the Signs

Ask kids about what they felt inside their body and brain before a meltdown has happened in the past. You might hear these things from them:

  • “I feel like I want to cry.”
  • “I feel like I am going to explode!”
  • “My tummy hurts so bad!”
  • “I feel like I am going to pee my pants!”
  • “My head feels funny.”

These are signs that your kid is having trouble processing their environment. You can then use these emotions and thoughts as a tool for the child to understand what they are feeling. It will help them learn how to manage intense feelings. Educating your child about their sensory needs is an excellent way for them to learn how and when they need to calm down so that you can help them cope with their sensory issues. 

6. Practice Coping Strategies Together

When children get overwhelmed during social events and family gatherings, come alongside them by practicing coping strategies together.

  • Search for a quiet room where they can go if they feel uncomfortable.
  •  Help them find a comfortable seat and ask if they want a break.
  • Take them to sit outside for a few minutes of fresh air or calm down in the back seat of the car before going inside.
  • You can give them some special time or play a quick game before you go back into the event or situation. 
  • Try deep breathing exercises with your young kid to help them calm down and focus on their sensory needs.
  • You can tell them you will be on the lookout for signals and signs that they’re struggling with. For instance, during holiday activities with their cousins, your child might feel anxious and reluctant to leave the room to regulate. In this scenario, he can trust you to help rejoin the fun when he’s in control of his feelings. 

The Takeaway

All children experience sensory issues on a regular basis. What makes special needs kids different is the degree of their sensory issues and their lack of coping skills they have in order to calm themselves down. As a parent, you are the first line of defense in helping your child cope with their overstimulated brains and bodies. Your support will help them learn how to manage their emotions during social events and everyday life.


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Andrea Gibb, Author

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