Extreme sensitivity to noise, crowds, touch, textures, bright lights, bothersome clothing, and new experiences can be overwhelming for children with sensory sensitivities or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). As a consequence, the summer season can prove to be quite difficult for these children.
If your child has sensory sensitivities, it is critical to stay ahead of known triggers to minimize meltdowns and distress. Also, be an advocate for your child by explaining to others what sensory problems are and how they can help minimize your child’s distress. Below are some useful, everyday tips:
- For kids with hypersensitivity to noise, try giving them a quiet place at home they can go to when they feel overwhelmed and need a break.
- It may help to give them a watch or timer so they know exactly what time a bothersome activity or environment will end.
- If your child has extreme sensitivity to certain types of clothing, go through his wardrobe together to determine which pieces are tolerable and which ones aren’t.
- Wake your child 15 minutes earlier in the morning to enjoy a favorite activity before camp or summer school. Whether it is reading, computer time, or a game, make sure your child is quiet and undisturbed.
- Give your child at least thirty minutes of quiet time after camp and summer school to rest and reset. Before bed, allow another 30 minutes of quiet time to unwind. (Swinging and rocking are beneficial for organizing the senses, so quiet time can include those activities as well.)
- On the Go! Tip: Create kits for dealing with sensory problems on the go so you’re always prepared. Kits should include ear plugs for noise, sensory fidgets to keep hands busy, and sticky notes to cover sensors on automatic toilets and hand driers. You may also want to include some headphones and a music player with their favorite music or a book.
Finding sensory activities your children can enjoy at home can help fill long summer days while improving motor planning and processing skills. Below we’ve compiled some of our favorite sensory-based and imaginative play ideas for you and your children to enjoy this summer:
- Re-purpose old flower containers and create an outdoor kitchen full of herbs, plant clippings, sand, and mud, and let your kids create all kinds of concoctions. This activity will provide lots of sensory input for children who crave it!
- Scooter boards are an easy way to build core strength while improving balance and focus. Set up toy bowling pins (tall plastic bottles work in a pinch), put your tummy on the scooter board, and use your hands to roll yourself into the “bowling pins”. It’s no secret that exercise releases endorphins and helps calm the nervous system, so try this fun game to help your kids strengthen their brains and bodies!
- Need a sensory activity for a rainy day? Try this awesome 3-D masking tape maze! In a long hallway, stretch multiple pieces of tape from one wall to the other at varying heights along the hall, and have kids try to navigate the maze without touching the tape. This indoor activity encourages balance and coordination and is just plain fun!
If your family has useful tips for avoiding sensory sensitivity distress, or some favorite sensory related activities for summertime, please share them with us below in our comments section!
Note: While these activities may provide a temporary solution for your child’s sensory issues, strengthening the underlying functional deficits can create permanent change. Neuroplasticity describes the brain’s ability to change in response to specific stimuli. The approach must be comprehensive, consistent, continuous and frequent and it must involve multiple modalities. Compensating for your child’s weaknesses is a good short term solution, but one which cannot be sustained indefinitely.