Tips for Coping with Sensory Integration Problems

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Parenting a child with sensory integration issues can be a challenge, but it can also be a deeply rewarding experience as well. These tips can help:

  • Children with sensory integration disorders will act differently than other children. It will be necessary for you to learn new and different ways to help this child.
  • As your child with sensory issues grows and matures, he will be able to handle his behavior better at school, but he may also meltdown at home because of the fatigue that comes with "holding it together" all day at school.
  • As your child gets older, it may become more difficult for her to be involved with social relationships. Realize that your child may need smaller doses of social interaction than other children. The need for alone time should not be seen as a problem.
  • Be specific with your child about unacceptable behavior. Provide structured, consistent rules that will help him control his behavior. Don't give in to hitting, throwing things, or yelling, even when it is difficult.
  • Don't be ashamed of your child's disability. Be frank with others about the problems your child is facing. Some people will be critical, as is always true regardless of whether your child has a disability or not. You will learn whom to avoid. Fortunately, however, many people have personal experience with friends or family members who have disabilities and will be understanding of the situation you are coping with.
  • Finding a support group for parents and families coping with a sensory integration impaired child can be helpful.
  • Know that many educators will be more than willing to work with you to identify the best ways to teach your child. These professionals will be willing to make changes in their classrooms to help your child's learning experiences. They will welcome your insight into how you have managed your child's behavior and will want to know about special interests your child has. They will be interested in developing effective ways to communicate with your child.
  • That said, not every teacher will be accepting and supportive of your child. When this happens, enlist the support of the school counselor, principal, or director of special education to get your child the help she needs.
  • Develop a daily routine. This consistency will help your child know what to expect and will help him conform to your expectations. A daily routine can be comforting to a child with sensory integration issues and can help him keep his own behavior under control.
  • Recognize that holding it together all day in school is physically and mentally draining on your child. Talk with your child's teacher about reducing the amount of homework she is expected to perform. Build in some down time into your child's schedule right after school to allow her to unwind before beginning homework.
  • Develop a supportive relationship with your child's teachers. Volunteer. Help out when you can.
  • If your child's anxiety is seriously affecting her ability to participate in normal activities, you may want to consider discussing medication with her pediatrican.
  • Have your child evaluated by an occupational therapist who is familiar with sensory integration issues. An occupational therapist can identify ways to help your child learn, ways to help him cope, and can identify practical strategies to use at home and at school to help with learning and behavior management.
  • It can be helpful for the occupational therapist to meet with your child's teacher to share information on sensory integration, what it is, and what to do about it.
  • Remember that as a parent, you did not cause your child's sensory integration problems, and you should not blame yourself.
  • If your child must change classes in school, see if the school can assign a staff member to help him change classes before other students are dismissed into the hallways. The noise and crowded conditions in the hallways can be very distressing to a child with sensory integration issues.
  • Older children with sensory integration issues may benefit from learning stress management techniques.
  • Tell school staff if your child is overly sensitive to specific sounds, smells, or touch. This can help avert problems.
  • Develop a plan to help your child cope with anger. Establish a safe place at home and at school for him to remove himself from overwhelming situations and cool down.

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