Sensory processing issues

I Just Found Out My Child Has Sensory Processing Issues. Now What?

By Lexi Walters Wright

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For many parents, learning that sensory processing issues are the root of some of their child’s behaviors can provide relief. But it can also raise a lot of questions—specifically, “What can I do to help?” Here are some steps to help you get started.


Learn all you can about sensory processing issues.

There’s a lot to know about sensory processing issues. Become familiar with terms your child’s teachers, doctors and specialists might use. Understand what sensory processing issues can look like at different ages and how signs can change over time. And debunk common myths.


Observe your child’s sensory triggers.

There are common triggers for kids with sensory processing issues. But no two children with sensory processing issues are affected in exactly the same way.

Sensory processing issues can cause struggles with taste, touch, noise, smells, visual stimulation, or a combination of these. They can also affect motor skills. Some kids may be undersensitive while others are oversensitive—and some may experience both. Observe your child and take notes. This can help you identify her unique trouble spots and find solutions.


Look into treatments and strategies for sensory processing issues.

An occupational therapist can design a “sensory diet” routine for your child. This is a type of sensory integration intervention or treatment strategy for kids with sensory processing issues. A sensory diet can help your child get into a “just right state” to make it easier for her to learn and pay attention. It can include a series of physical activities for your child to do. It may also include accommodations like fidget toys.


Discuss supports and services for sensory processing issues with the school.

Even if the school has done its own evaluation, recommendations from outside evaluations can help determine if your child is eligible for an IEP or a 504 plan. With an IEP or a 504 plan, your child would be able to get formal accommodations. If she’s not eligible, learn about informal supports that could help.

You can also request that the school do a sensory profile test. This can help teachers identify how sensory processing issues affect your child during the school day—and how to help. If your child’s school has not been involved in identifying her sensory processing issues, schedule a meeting with the school and provide a copy of the report from the specialist or pediatrician.


Get tips for managing meltdowns.

Kids with sensory processing issues often struggle with self-regulation. They can have intense reactions—reactions that can be hard for parents to understand and know how to manage.

Learn about the difference between a tantrum and a sensory meltdown. Some parents and professionals may use the terms interchangeably, but they’re different behaviors. Compare the signs of each and helpful ways to handle them.


Understand the possible emotional impact.

Having learning and attention issues can also have an effect on your child’s emotions. In some cases, there’s even a higher risk for mental health issues. Learn about the signs of anxiety and depression. Don’t wait to contact your child’s doctor if you have any concerns.


Discover ways to help with sensory processing issues at home.

Creating and sticking to routines can be especially helpful for kids with sensory processing issues. But so can being flexible around your child’s clothing choices and finding ways to accommodate for the things she’s sensitive to. Explore a collection of tips to help kids with sensory processing issues at home.

If your child is undersensitive to painful stimuli, you may be worried about her safety. It’s important to have specific discussions about this with your child. For example: “If you fall down or see blood, tell a grown-up right away.” If you need to loop in friends and family for help, get tips on how to explain sensory processing issues to them.


Find support.

Contact your local Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to learn about local services that can help. Search online for sensory-friendly events near you, like sensory-friendly movies. Read about other parents’ experiences with sensory processing issues, like how one family created a sensory-friendly Halloween or a mom’s approach to coping with her child’s sensory challenges.

And be sure to connect with other parents of children with sensory processing issues in our online community.


Stay in touch with the school.

Continue to talk with the teacher about how sensory processing issues affect your child. Share coping strategies that work for your child. Then use that information to find ways to make potentially tricky school situations, like field trips, go more smoothly.

About the Author

Portrait of Lexi Walters Wright

Lexi Walters Wright is a veteran writer and editor who helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Keri Wilmot

Keri Wilmot is an occupational therapist who works with children of varying ages and abilities in all areas of pediatrics.

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