Have you ever wondered why your child will only wear certain fabrics? Perhaps your child is a picky eater? Does your child cover her ears at certain sounds? These may be symptoms of your child’s sensory system having difficulty processing what, to other children, is a normal sensation. In the classroom sometimes there are children that are wiggling in their chair or moving around the classroom frequently.
Children with an under responding sensory system move a lot or touch things to stimulate their sensory system. Children with an over responding sensory system will avoid certain things like; types of fabric, textures of certain foods to note a few.
An occupational therapist is qualified to assess and treat sensory related issues so that your child knows how to manage their sensory system and continue to grow and learn at a developmentally appropriate level. Sensory processing problems can interfere with learning and socialization.
In play therapy we work with your child to help them improve emotional regulation and create healthier social interactions. For some children their sensory issues can appear odd or strange to other children and therefore inhibit friendships and feeling connected to others.
Play therapy enables the child to practice new skills, work through challenging thoughts and feelings, and improve self esteem by playing. This may sound too simple – but, in actuality, it is simple when you are working with a professional who speaks “play”. Play gives children the emotional distance and freedom to express themselves in an unguarded way that “talk” therapy does not achieve.
Children can use their imagination and project unwanted thoughts and feelings onto the toys so that the child is not only the participant but the witness to the play and then they can develop new ways of managing thoughts and feelings. Sometimes a dragon is just a dragon and sometimes a dragon is the guardian of what is precious.
A dragon can also be the voice of anger or frustration as it breathes fire onto other things. The options are unlimited. With sensory related issues play is often targeted toward that sensory challenge. For example, children love to make Slime. This is a high sensory activity because it activates the feeling of touch, the olfactory system through smell, the visual system through color and adding sparkles to the Slime.
We have many ways of helping children to tolerate that part of their sensory system they are most challenged by.
Proprioception and Vestibular systems are keys to helping kids with sensory issues. Proprioception is the awareness one has of how their body moves and the Vestibular system is connected to balance and how the body reacts spatially. To improve vestibular functioning try standing heel to toe for 30 seconds and then switch which foot is in front and hold the position for another 30 seconds. To improve proprioception try balancing on one leg for 30 seconds and then the other leg for 30 seconds. There are many ways to improve these two sensory systems for better integration in the body and improved emotional regulation. We can help you and your child have greater sensory integration and improved peer and family relations. We are here to help. We understand the concerns parents have for their children and can help through the power of play.
Mary Ruth Cross, MFT, NBCC, RPT-S
CEO / Owner Treehouse Family Counseling Services