Sensory meltdowns can be triggered by over-stimulation of the senses and the inability to self-regulate. This can be anything from loud noises to uncomfortable clothing. For children with sensory processing disorder or autism spectrum disorder, sensory overload can happen very quickly by seemingly ordinary things in our everyday lives. If your child is on the spectrum or has other sensory sensitivities, you know that meltdowns can happen anytime. Here’s what parents need to know about sensory meltdowns in children.
What is a Sensory Meltdown?
Sensory meltdowns are different from temper tantrums, and they look different for every child. Sensitivity to lights, crowds, or noise can cause children with sensory sensitivities to become confused and scared. Their overloaded senses can lead to reactions that parents see as behavioral problems when they are actually signs of sensory overload. Children with sensory difficulties may view their environment as dangerous based on how they process sensory information. The nervous system switches to the “fight or flight” response during a sensory meltdown. Meaning the brain can no longer take the demands of the environment.
What Triggers a Sensory Meltdown?
Many things can trigger a meltdown in your child. For some, sensory meltdowns are triggered by the accumulation of sensory input during their day, and the trigger might not seem to be sensory related at all but instead was the final straw. Consider how much sensory input surrounds your child daily, especially when at school. For example, the sound of the school bells and children screaming, the feel of glue on your fingers, or questionable cafeteria food. As children are expected to participate in school and ignore these stressful sensory inputs, something as small as getting the wrong cup after school could trigger a sensory meltdown.
How Therapy Can Help
For children who experience sensory meltdowns, occupational therapy can be highly beneficial. Occupational therapists work with children to help them understand and process the different sensations they experience in their environment. This type of therapy also helps children adapt to their environment and daily tasks to create adaptive and appropriate responses to overwhelming situations. Occupational therapists also use play to assist children with autism and sensory processing disorder. Just as adults learn better when having fun, the same is true for kids. In fact, play is critical for a child’s development and growth because it comes naturally to them and encourages and challenges their mind and body to focus and be creative. Sensory processing meltdowns can be difficult for children and parents. But by being prepared and knowing what to do, you can help lessen the frequency and severity of meltdowns.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.