Some children find it difficult to process the information received from their senses. Those who feel sensory inputs too intensely – like colours appearing excessively bright or fruits tasting too grainy – can become sensory sensitive or sensory avoidant. The following article provides calm-down strategies for over-responsive children that you can use within the learning environment.
What Is Sensory Processing?
A child learn to first notice/register information from their senses, then digest it, and then behave properly as they grow and start to explore their surroundings. We refer to this as sensory processing. This could involve paying attention to, then processing, the sound of the alarm clock in the morning before getting out of bed, or it could involve paying attention to, then processing, the temperature and sensation of the water on our bodies during a hot shower before adjusting the temperature or force of the water as necessary. We frequently carry out routine chores without any trouble digesting data from our senses. Sometimes this information can be confusing for young children, appear excessively intense, or be presented slowly.
Over Responsive and Under Responsive Sensory Processing Difficulties
Children who present with difficulties processing information from their senses might appear over-responsive and/or under-responsive to certain types of sensory input. Over-responsive means that they are quick to notice information received from their senses or are highly aware. A little might seem like a lot to a child who is overresponsive. Under-responsive means that they do not notice and process information received from the senses as well. They often seek extra sensory input or they might need support from others to register sensory input. It is important to note that children can present differently. Some can be overresponsive to touch and avoid wearing tight clothes but they might also be underresponsive to movement and appear to be always in the go.
Strategies For Over Responsive Children
Heavy work activities that involve pushing, pulling and carrying weights. So you could have such children play tug of war with weights on their hands or legs or push a wheelbarrow. A particularly fun way of including heavy work activity might be through animal walks such as Donkey kicks, bear walks, inchworm, and seal walking in require kids to walk on all fours.
Over-stimulated children often find it difficult to sit still and run about in the room. You can have them carry a stack of books to a table or take down/put up chairs on the desk at the beginning/end of the school day. Such activities will not only keep them happily busy but also help them feel calmer on account of the weight moved around.
Plan a couple of calming spaces in your learning environment where overstimulated learners can go when they feel a sensory overload. Such areas could have a tent or a large bean bag with heavy blankets for a child to crawl under or sit on.
Check if over-responsive students are sitting close to high-traffic areas like the corridor or the bathrooms. Instead, change their seating to areas with lesser movement and noise where they will not be easily distracted. Also having them seated away from direct sunlight or overly bright colours and too many toys can help them feel calmer.
Tactile bins are especially useful in calming over-responsive children. These are small storage boxes that can contain dry materials like sand, rice, beans, cotton balls, porridge flakes, flour or wet ones like water, paint, wet dough, paper mache or even mud. Children can start by placing their hands in bins with dry textures before moving on to those with wet textures. Digging their fingers deep into such bins and feeling the pressure of the materials on their fingers is often calming. Turn the experience into a game by including toy cars or dolls if needed. Ensure that they have a water bowl and towel nearby so that they can rinse off the materials when they want to.
Teach overstimulated children to use headphones or ear muffs during times when a school trip to a noisy place can become uncomfortable. Discuss with their families the use of natural sounds like wind, waves, rain and birds as ‘white noise’ to block out excessive auditory stimuli.
The former would be easily distracted by noise, light and touch while the latter would avoid busy situations, loud noises and certain textures of foods. In both cases, over-responsive children can feel anxious, nervous, stressed and unable to focus.
Calm Down Box For Children - A calm down box has a variety of sensory tools that a child is encouraged to use when they are feeling frustrated, and intense anger to calm down emotions. The following article provides a list of self-regulates that can be included inside a calm down box.
10 Strategies To Handle An Angry Child - Calming down an angry child is important as it helps to enhance awareness about their feelings and also helps to balance their emotional development. The following article provides 10 strategies to handle an angry child.
Reset Activities For Children After A Tantrum Or Meltdown - The following article provides information on Reset Activities When To Use Rest Activities, Choosing Reset Activities and more.
Pattern Posters - The Pattern Posters can be used as a calming down technique for children when they are feeling overwhelmed. Children can trace the pattern with their fingers or use stones to place along the pattern to help them focus when they are unsettled. These can also be used with playdough as well. These are a great addition to add to a Calming Corner.
Sensory Processing Tips and Strategies, Corcaigh Ciarrai Cork Keery Community Healthcare