Sensory Challenges: Too much or too little?

Does it seem like your child overreacts to everyday noises? Do you fight to get your child to put on socks or shoes? When your child interacts with other children do they invade their space or tap them? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is possible your child experiences sensory challenges.

Sensory challenges can be in the category of deficits (not enough, seeks sensory input) or overload (too much, becomes overwhelmed by sensory input). Some children may have both types of sensory challenges and are constantly trying to find balance. When children do not receive the sensory input they need or receive too much sensory input, they appear dysregulated throughout the day. This dysregulation can be in the form of tantrums, meltdowns, defiance, negative moods, avoidance, and/or isolation.

What can you do to determine if this is what your child is experiencing? You can complete a sensory checklist to see what type of sensory issues, if any, your child has. There are free versions available online for parents to take. You can consult with your child’s primary care physician about the behaviors and symptoms you are seeing. The PCP can rule out any medical causes or refer you to other providers for further evaluation. If you child does have sensory challenges or sensory processing disorder, there are many ways to help your child including occupational therapy, play therapy, and various adjustments at home.

We here at Treehouse Counseling work with children and teens who experience sensory challenges. The goal is to increase coping skills for when the level of sensory input is not what the child is needing and to teach appropriate and positive ways to seek the input they need. Therapy may include techniques to calm the physiological system (overload) or communication skills to ask for the sensory level needed (deficit). Therapy can be a great support for the child and family as they navigate these sensory challenges and provide hope for the future!

Michelle A. Culver, LMFT