What are sensory needs?
Sensory experience is how we all understood the world around us. It is important to recognise that at times we all seek sensory information that makes us feel better and sometimes we retreat from sensory information if it makes us feel overwhelmed. It is also important to remember that we all interpret sensory information differently and this can affect how we think, feel and behave.
What can help?
Suggestions are made below; however, every young person is different and these may not all be effective for your child and may even make them more uncomfortable.
- Calming strategies may include sitting under a heavy blanket or being wrapped up, hugs or squeezes, fidget toys, enjoyable scents, a rocking chair or gym ball and a small safe space. If your child appears to enjoy chewing, specific sensory toys, sometimes called Chewlery is available on online retailers.
- In relation to self-care, consideration should be given to the type of fabric your child appears to prefer, they may prefer labels to be cut out or clothing with less seams. Some children prefer more gentle fragrances or unscented washing products. If a young person struggles with washing, there are many factors to be considered, including the sound of the water, the smell of the soap and the feeling of washing their body. Adaptations could be considered, including baths rather than showers, using flannels or sponges. Deep pressure (by wrapping them in a large towel) afterwards may also be helpful and calming.
- Take note of whether your child appears more comfortable with a certain level of light exposure and consider whether they struggle or enjoy bright colours and patterns. Visual sensory needs can be worked into other areas of difficulty.
- Similarly, methods can be used to reduce sound and noise, such as ear defenders or ear plugs and utilising calming strategies in busy, loud environments.
- It should be considered that young people with a high register of sensory feedback may find it difficult to concentrate in areas where they are being stimulated by other information. In these cases, attempts should be made to reduce the stimuli around them, for instance, by turning off the TV if they are doing something else and by having a tidy and organised environment.
Where can I get more help or learn more?
We also recommend ‘A Sensory Life!’ website for helpful information and resources.