Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Calming Down After Sensory Overload

All children experience sensory overload, not just our sensational SPD kids.  The world gets too bright, too noisy, and too rough, and it can be too much to handle.  Add in a rough transition and it's enough to make anyone cry.

I have a sensational boy who is constantly over stimulated because the slightest touch feels like a hard slap.  I also have a sensational boy who needs to constantly jump and crash for proprioceptive input.  I have to help each one individually when they hit sensory overload.

The first way to help is to avoid it.  My kids have a hard time transitioning after school so we don't go to the store after school.  Ever.  Not even for one little thing.  Unless it's an emergency, we go home.  I also know they just can't do more than two stores at a time.  This takes extra time because we may have to go back in the same direction later, but it's worth it.  Trust me.

Hungry kids are more likely to melt.  My kids get fed a full meal before leaving the house.  This doesn't stop any of them from being starving five minutes into the ride, but it does help their attitudes.  They still salivate at the sight of the golden arches, but I can firmly say no.

There are times when sensory overload is bound to happen.  When we are out with family all day I know there will be melt downs. Here are some of my tips to help:

  1. Proprioceptive input is your friend.  I don't take the brush with us, but I will do joint compressions and have them jump.  They mumble and moan, but it really does help.  If it's nice out and you can get them moving that works too.  Even walking around a parking lot outside and away from the noise and lights will help.  
  2. Deep pressure.  Same idea as above, but my younger sensational boy benefits from bear hugs.  If he has completely melted and can't control himself, this gives him the proprioceptive input as well as restrains him.  I need to protect him, others, and objects from his destruction when he hits his breaking point.  
  3. Remove them from the situation.  Get outside weather permitting.  Take a walk, hop, skip, jump.  Do anything to get away from the lights and noise.  Ask what's bothering them and see how to help.  Sunglasses?  Food?  
  4. Don't let them get bored.  A bored child will have more melt downs.  Their minds must have more time to focus on the sensory overload or something  If we are with family or a group, I leave two kids with their dad and take the melting one away from the group.  No fanfare, just quietly leave.  If the group doesn't understand, next time remove yourself and leave the child with them.  I kid.  Maybe.  
  5. Give them snacks.  Crunchy snacks help because it gives a little proprioceptive input.  Always have snacks and drinks with you.  I like water bottles because you can refill them about anywhere and if they spill in the car or store it's not sticky and won't stain.  
Remember the best way to handle a melt down is to avoid it.  When you see the signs, do everything you can to get your child back in sync.  If your child wakes up out of sync, mine do, then don't leave the house unless aliens attack!

I know some of you wonderful moms have more tips and I'd love to hear them.  Please leave them in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Great tips!

    Little miss is not strong enough to walk very far (especially in meltdown mode) -- so I like to put her in her stroller and take her for a walk. She usually protests at first (arching her back, crying loudly, you know the deal), but will eventually settle in and let the visuals mesmerize her.

    Thanks for sharing the rest!