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The Hood Magazine

Sensory Processing Difficulties

Nov 28, 2015 02:43PM ● By Hood Magazine
By Jessica Conaway, Occupational Therapist, LifeScape 


When children with sensory processing difficulties feel rushed to complete a task that is already offensive to their sensory system, they can feel overwhelmed and completely shut down. So what is the solution as you attempt to get everyone dressed, fed and out the door in the morning? There is not a one-size-fits-all solution, as each child is different, but in general preparing your child for these tactile experiences is key.


First, make sure their clothing is comfortable for them, recognizing that this may be different than what you find comfortable. Some children cannot stand “itchy” tags in their clothes or will complain about the seams in their pants. You can often find clothing without these offenders. Also, it is always best to wash (and rewash) new clothing with fabric softener before you expect your child with tactile sensitivities to wear it. New clothes are not nearly as comfortable as something that has been washed dozens of times.


Be sure to allow your child to have at least some control throughout the task. Let them choose their clothes, pick out their toothpaste at the store, or brush their hair themselves. You may have to help them complete the task properly after they have tried, but the more they feel in control over what is happening to their body, the better they will tolerate it.


Lastly, help your child to prepare for an unpleasant task by engaging in deep pressure or heavy work activities. An example of a deep pressure activity is getting a big bear hug or being “squished” between two couch cushions. Heavy work activities require the child to push, pull or carry something heavy or otherwise work hard. They could push a full basket of laundry down the hall or jump on a mini trampoline. Children with oral sensitivities may also benefit from heavy work activities for their mouths, for example drinking through a straw or blowing bubbles before brushing their teeth.


If your child continues to have a difficult time tolerating appropriate clothing for the weather or refuses to complete daily grooming tasks, ask your child’s physician if they may benefit from occupational therapy services.