Children with sensory processing difficulties (SPD) will often exhibit a flight or fight response, aka a “meltdown.” Meltdowns occur more frequently in children with SPD, as they have a hard time regulating their emotions due to the way they process sensory inputs.
Below is a list of activities and suggestions that affect sensory processing. The list is broken into two components.
Try the calming activities if your child seems to be having a hard time regulating their body and emotions.
The list of things to avoid can help identify and avoid these tasks.
Calming Sensory Diet Activities
- Consider the environment and demands beforehand, prepare your child before presenting them to new experiences.
- Notice if the environment is too overstimulating.
- Provide soft and cuddly spots to hang out
- Provide deep pressure by playing games; pillow fights, trampoline, wrestling, etc
- Oral motor stimulation usually has a very calming effect; provide drinks with straws, water bottles, gum, hard/crunchy foods
Avoid in a Sensory Diet
- Sudden and intense demands without any transitional cues.
- Tickling or unexpected touch
- Too much input i.e. too much spinning, swinging, jumping this will often cause overstimulation and cause an adverse reaction.
- Never introducing new experiences is also problematic.
- Experiences where the child has already expressed fear, slowly transition to these activities.
Carissa Jannicelli Pampanin, MS, OTR/L, SIPT is an occupational therapist at the Pediatric Therapy Center of NJ in Cedar Grove, with specialties in sensory integration and early intervention services for children.