Sensory Processing Disorder is a challenging beast. If your child has signs of SPD, or an SPD diagnosis, you have likely already experienced many battles and frustrating moments, just trying to get through this thing called daily life. Maybe your child can’t stand the feeling of t-shirt tags. Or the sound of a chair scraping across the floor. Or the sensation of sand. Or grass. Or shoes. I know it’s exhausting and never-ending. Tips for SPD parenting are out there, however!
What is SPD? Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurological condition in which sensory signals don’t seem to translate into appropriate responses. People with SPD find it difficult to process sensory information (e.g. sound, touch and movement) from the world around them.
When your child has SPD, you might feel hopeless. And certainly exhausted. SPD parenting is not for the faint of heart!
SPD parenting tips:
Remember that your child feels out of control. She cannot control the sounds, sensations, and feelings that come at her from her environment, and that lack of control over her own life can lead to tears, screaming, or other outbursts. Imagine multiple sensations coming at you at all times, over which you have no control, and it’s easier to feel sympathy.
Find a good OT (occupational therapist) and develop an SPD ‘diet’. Your child’s OT may prescribe jumping on the bed, squishing up with pillows, or other ‘low dose’ sensations. This helps your child develop coping mechanisms for the sensations that come their way, in a measured and controlled way.
Plan ahead for sensory onslaughts. Will your child be exposed to a parade, fireworks, or loud music in his immediate future? (Maybe you have a trip planned to Disney, or the 4th of July is coming up.) Allow your child to ‘practice’ exposure to sensations. Watch a parade on TV, and talk through the sights and sounds that will be involved. Listen to the music you expect to hear at the concert. Also consider buying noise canceling headphones or ear muffs for your child, so he can get relief when he needs it.
Ignore unwanted advice from strangers. They don’t know your child, and they don’t know the diagnosis. So when you’re in the grocery store, and your child is screaming because he can’t process the way the cart wheels sound, you can happily ignore the looks, the advice to ‘not give into tantrums’, and the judgment. Maybe you’ll get lucky and run across another SPD parent, and then you can share some much-needed empathy.
Create a relaxation nook. Everyone needs a sanctuary. Create one in your house where your child can retreat when needed. Ideas include low lighting, quiet, soft pillows or a simple mat, a weighted blanket, or other tactile things she likes to have on-hand.
Make a plan for school. Maybe this involves a formal IEP or other plan with your teachers and school district, or maybe it just involves a parent-teacher conference. Make sure your child has access to soothing items such as fidget toys, ear muffs, or quiet corners.