Sensory integration is an important part of my daughter’s daily needs. She is very sensitive to external stimuli. Once I had an understanding of this and her sensory needs, it made her more comfortable and content. This, of course, led to better days and nights for her (and a happier mamma).
A lot of children with disabilities have sensory integration disorder (SID). SID means that the person’s nervous system cannot process a lot of external stimuli at one time. If forced to process the stimuli, behavior issues will result.
There are ways to block out some stimuli and there are activities that can be done after the exposure to help the child calm down.
Some of my daughter’s sensory overload stimuli are loud noises, bright lights, and temperature extremes. At home, these things can quickly be resolved. It is when she leaves the house that things get more challenging.
I always make sure that I bring along a jacket or a blanket. This is an easy fix for when we go out into the community to a place that is cold. If it is a hot summer day, I make sure to bring lots of cold water. This can be used for drinking or for cooling off. When we go to the soccer fields, I bring cold water and a wash cloth. When my daughter starts to overheat, I cool her off by placing a cool damp rag on her skin.
Her brother plays ice hockey and the ice rink has all 3 of her SID triggers. The rink is cold, bright and very loud. Sometimes she wants to go to his games so we bring along the blanket, noise cancelling headphones, sunglasses and iPad. The blanket is for getting warm. The headphones muffle out the loud noises and the sunglasses help shade the bright lights.
She does enjoy watching some of the game but gets bored rather quickly. Her iPad has many games and puzzle apps. When she gets bored with the hockey game, she can get busy on her iPad and the familiar games help to filter out extra stimuli, too.
I have learned through the years that one outing a day is my daughter’s limit. This is not always convenient and sometimes can’t be avoided. But if I push her and we go to a second place, the meltdowns make it very unpleasant.
When we get home, I make sure she has down time. This includes quiet activities, a dim room and sometimes, she uses her weighted blanket. Deep pressure is very calming for her, so getting under her weighted blanket after community activities calms her nervous system down.
I hope these ideas are helpful and give you some ideas if your child has SID. This website has lots of information and articles to give you more information – use these searches for sensory friendly events and additional information on sensory integration disorder.
After making the difficult decision to medicate your child, with time and on occasions, old symptoms return or new ones appear. Once again, you’re faced with what felt like an already-made decision - to medicate higher or more, or not.