Sensory Processing Disorder can be hard for not only the individual struggling with it, but also the parents. I wrote a little about our family’s experiences with SPD. In a nutshell, we have two children, Jed and Jules, who struggle with sensory processing disorder. It’s been a journey for us to help them and keep sanity and calm in our house. We have found that while it’s important to know you are not alone, it’s also nice to have practical tips for surviving sensory processing disorder. So here are some tips that have helped our two kids. Please note this is not an all inclusive list, and a therapist and care team should always be consulted to find ways to help your individual child cope.
1. Limit Screen Time and Get Outside
I know there is a big push for this anyway in our culture, but we notice the symptoms of SPD way more when our children have had screen time. Our children with SPD are more affected by tablets than TV for some reason, so at this point we do not allow them to have the tablets at all. They get to watch a movie every couple of days, but other than that, we don’t do screen time. Get them outside. This is where our children are happiest. We pick up hobbies in the outdoors, including hiking and cross country skiing. It’s the best.
2. Cuddle and Read
Our children do best if they have ample time to cuddle and read with Daddy and Mommy. Jed especially calms down immensely with hugs. He asks for hugs all the time, and it refocuses and settles his little system so much. Jules also loves to just sit on people’s laps. If we notice either of them winding up and symptoms intensifying, we take a break and give them this quality time. Reading a book where they sit quietly and are less distracted by everything else around them often is a beautiful addition.
3. Occupational Therapy (OT)
I discuss this more in my other article, but I do not want to neglect to put it here. Occupational therapy for sensory processing disorder has increased our kids’ coping and communication skills. It was the key turning point for allowing Jed and Jules to be more functional and healthy children. I truly cannot imagine what our life would be like without occupational therapy. This may be number three in the list, but it is one of the most important steps to help your children.
4. Essential Oils
The Young Living Blend, Gentle Baby, helps calm our children immensely. I have a roller bottle on hand for my kids at all times. When they are really upset, I roll it on their spines and chest. It allows them to relax and communicate more effectively so that we can figure out what they actually need.
5. Communicate Changes and Manage Expectations
Nothing is worse for Jed and Jules than if they are assuming we will do one thing and we do another. Communicating clearly with them our plans and expectations is key for surviving sensory processing disorder. One time we went on a one mile loop around a lake that we frequent, but we went counter clockwise instead of clockwise like we usually do. While it didn’t phase us at all, Jed was completely confused and upset because the things he expected to see at certain times were not there. When we stopped and explained why things were different he calmed down and was able to complete the walk much more happily. When we are getting ready to go, we have ten, five, and two minute warnings so they know to expect that we are leaving. For bedtime we have a routine and stick to it as often as we possibly can to help their little minds be able to track correctly with what we are doing. It is an easy thing to do which makes a big difference for children with SPD.
6. Take Time For Yourself
Having children with SPD can be exhausting. You cannot take care of others if you do not take care of yourself. This means you need to get breaks and do things to refresh you. For me, this means having hobbies I enjoy (like blogging and playing with essential oils!), making sure my hygiene is kept up and getting good sleep if we can, and occasionally getting out by myself or with my husband. We set an early bedtime so that Ben and I have time to be adults and relax after the kids go to bed. This will look differently for each of you, but whatever it is that refreshes you, take time to do it.
7. Positive Outlook
And last, but not least, keep a positive outlook. Always be kind to your children. We all fail sometimes but the big picture is what matters. Your children with SPD are frustrated too and do not want to deal with these symptoms. Be kind and patient. On the bad days, mark it is a bad day and focus on the good and the future good days ahead. A positive outlook makes surviving sensory processing disorder much easier; your children notice whether you are stressed or discouraged. When you have a positive attitude, convincing your children to have a positive attitude is much easier. Sensory processing disorder does not need to define your children, nor should it.
With the help of occupational therapy and finding good coping techniques, the days will get easier. It may never be “normal” (whatever that is) but it can get easier. And whatever you do, feel free to talk and find a community to support you. You can always message me, as well, if you need a listening ear!