Sometimes, sensory behaviors, like stimming, can be beneficial to help a child cope with being under- or over-stimulated. However, there are other times when a child’s sensory behaviors are inappropriate; they may distract classmates, damage objects, or even put themselves or others in harm’s way. Being able to express oneself is important, but it’s just as important that those expressions are safe and appropriate. If your child is engaging in inappropriate sensory behaviors, then there are a few things you can do to figure out why your child is reacting in such a way and how to change their reaction to something more positive.
Step One: Observe
The first step to diagnosing what causes inappropriate sensory behaviors is to observe the behaviors when they happen. Make note of the behaviors as well as the environment, sounds, time of day, other children, and any other sensory cues that may be triggering the behaviors.
Step Two: Identify
The second step is to identify which sensory systems may be involved. You may need a background knowledge to do this. You can read our blog posts about the vestibular system and the proprioceptive system for a start. For more information, check out the book Sensory Processing 101, particularly the section titled “Sensory Processing Explained”.
Step Three: Recreate
Finally, you’ll have to brainstorm a few ways to recreate the sensory stimulants that the child needs that will help them to exhibit a positive response rather than an inappropriate one. So, for example, if your child is fidgeting or constantly leaving their chair, they may not be getting enough stimulation to their vestibular system. To remedy this, you can give them seating that allows movement, like a disc cushion seat, wobble stool, or a balance ball. This allows them to fidget as necessary to receive the proper stimulation while also helping them to focus on the task at hand.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center is a top therapy center serving families of children and adolescents with disabilities. Our team consists of the leading experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavior sciences. We offer intensive, hands-on therapy for children and adolescents as well as resources for families. We are real therapists helping real families with real issues. If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, take a moment to fill out our quick questionnaire. If you’d like to schedule an appointment, call 202-561-1110 (Washington, D.C. office) or 301-577-4333 (Lanham office) or contact us via our website. Want to keep up with our latest news and blog posts? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.