Chapter 10: If you think your child is the only one, think again

Bookshelves with children's toys and books

So many parents go through similar situations, yet fail to share their stories because they try to just power through it. Yet, knowing that we’re not alone can sometimes help to normalize the situation. And trust me, you’re not alone. I wish that more people would vocalize their experiences with their sensory kids, so that others would be able to offer them help. But parents are scared that if they share their troubles with their parenting, they might be judged for their resulting children’s behavior. Sensory processing disorder is a whole other beast, and behavior is not always a direct reflection of parenting.

So, for any of you parents who feel ashamed, defeated, discouraged, tired, confused, or too busy to even want to understand, just know that I see you. This is why I’ve put together three examples of sensory cases that I’ve helped with in the recent past. These seem to be quite common among kids that I’ve helped recently

Case number 1:

Problem:

Emily tends to get really angry and frustrated. When she fights with her family, her body feels out of control. She screams at the top of her lungs and gets sent to her room. She ends up peeing on the carpet in her room. She throws toys at the door and has uncontrollable tantrums.

She recently started to go into her closet and sit there when she behaves like this. She eventually calms down but at that point she’s tired and feels bad.

Solution:

Create a soothing and calm space for Emily in her closet where she tends to go mostly. Add a soft shag rug, a body pillow, and glow in the dark stars so that her tight calm space feels cozy. Also, add a comfort object that will make her feel safe, like a Teddy bear or a security blanket.

At a different time, when she’s calm and in a good mood, talk to her and show her that she needs to go into that space every time she gets upset. Talk to her about her body, what happens and how her newly created space can help her.

Case number 2:

Problem:

Brian has a difficult time understanding the concept of personal space. He’s constantly in people’s bubble and is impulsively touching them. He’s pushing against members of his family, rubbing against them, and is just driving everyone crazy because he won’t stop. He keeps getting in trouble and his parents are yelling at him because they just want him to stop. They are frustrated, they don’t have any more patience, and just need some peace and quiet from the constant invasion of their personal space. This definitely puts a damper on the relationship between Brian and his parents. But Brian feels that he needs to touch the people closest to him for comfort and cannot control these impulses. He feels like this daily. He doesn’t know how to stop.

Solution:

Create a space at home where Brian can exert physical energy by doing heavy work and getting his body to move. Pushing heavy items, climbing on monkey bars, jumping on a trampoline to increase his energy levels. Also, create an area where he can get messy with his hands by doing finger painting, using kinetic sand, play doh, or even have bins of dried lentils and other dried beans that he can play with.

Finally, add a compression swing in his comfort space that will provide that deep pressure he’s seeking. The family can also help by giving him a daily pressure massage.

By fulfilling those needs, Brian won’t be seeking that input from his family members.

Case study number 3:

Problem:

Cassy has ASD, ADHD and SPD. Her parents feel defeated. She behaves well in school, but at home it’s a whole other story. When Cassy comes home, she acts out immediately. She goes in her room and makes a huge mess. She hates her bedroom. She doesn’t like to spend time in it. She tends to have low energy most of the time. She spends most of her time in the living room playing make-believe, theatre, and disguising herself. She leaves a mess every time she plays there and she likes it that way. There’s a method to her mess. Her mom gets quite frustrated because there’s always a mess in the living room, and they live in an apartment. Her bedroom has bright lighting and grey walls, but it feels sad and gloomy. She loves to draw. She mostly draws pictures of her family and likes to put up the drawings on the wall in her room. Her drawings are placed randomly on the wall.

Solution:

Cassy needs stations in the apartment so that her time after school can be properly structured, just as school is. With a schedule, she can hop from one station to the next to avoid under-stimulation. The stations can include art, theatre, physical activity for example. She is also under-stimulated visually and needs to fulfill that need. Since she lives in a rented apartment, I recommended peel and stick patterned wallpaper in her room to satisfy the visual need. I also recommended to change the lighting in her room to a warm white, and add a mural of all her artwork on one of the walls, so as to not overwhelm the space. Lastly, I recommended open toy bins where her costumes, toys, and accessories can be thrown in. This way she can have an “organized mess”.

So there you have it. I hope this sheds some light and helps you with your child! Feel free to send me questions about your child’s situation or sensory need. I’d be happy to help!

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Interior designer in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey specializing in sensory-friendly spaces for children and individuals.