Sensory sensitivity, also known as sensory processing disorder, is a condition which, until recently, has not been fully understood. The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation estimates that one in 20 children are affected by this condition. Sensory sensitivity occurs when sensory information is improperly filtered and therefore is intensified on its way to the brain. As a result, children who are sensory sensitive may become upset by sounds, textures or smells. By understanding the nature of this condition, you can help your sensory-sensitive child to function well.
Adjust the texture and temperature of your child's clothes. According to website Remedial and Special Education, some children who are sensory sensitive have difficulty wearing certain types of clothes, particularly those that are too snug fitting, itchy or cold to the touch. You can work with your child on this by planning his clothes the night before, as this will help him know what to expect. In winter, you should also warm your child's clothing, either near a heater or in the dryer.
Provide crunchy foods, and separate textures during meals. Website Remedial and Special Education recommends that you keep crunchy foods on hand for your sensory-sensitive child, as these foods facilitate an important "sixth sense" called proprioception, in which sensory feedback makes a person aware of movement and body position. Crunchy foods may help your child to develop better proprioception. Also, avoid mixing foods together that have conflicting textures, such as mashed potatoes and gravy.
Avoid overcrowding your child's schedule. Remedial and Special Education says it's especially important not to "overbook" a sensory-sensitive child, as this is likely to overwhelm her. Try to space out birthday parties, trips to the zoo or picnics, so they don't occur on the same day.
Practice deep pressure. According to Remedial and Special Education, "deep pressure" refers to a type of touch that may help to desensitize your child's tactile experience. This could include massage, a "bear hug" or wrapping your child snugly in a blanket.
Try occupational therapy. The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation says children with this condition may benefit from a type of treatment known as occupational therapy. This type of therapy, which focuses on sensory integration, often takes place in a gym environment with heightened stimuli. Although it is taught by a clinician, occupational therapy often involves family participation.
Avoid strong-smelling fabric softeners. Remedial and Special Education emphasizes that a strongly scented fabric softener may disturb your sensory sensitive child's wearing of her clothes, and possibly disturb sleep if used on bed sheets.