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sensory emotions

Sensory Processing Disorder Dreams and Emotions

Sensory Processing Disorder and Struggling with Emotions

Individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder and/or Autistic Spectrum Condition are very likely to struggle with their emotions. Not only explaining them but understanding them in the first place. If you do not know how they are feeling that it is really hard to try and help. Emotional regulation is really important to help avoid meltdowns. Once the individual is able to identify them themselves they can then begin to self-regulate and take control of their sensory under and overloads.sensory emotions

How those with Sensory Processing Disorder may Struggle with Emotions

The individual with Sensory Processing Disorder or Autism may try and mirror other’s emotions – so if someone else is hurt they feel it too. They may feel upset if someone else is punished when they do not feel that the punishment was justified and have a sense of righteousness. Or they may become angry if someone is doing something they do not like – even if that is tickling them or being too loud.unhappy child

Helping those with Sensory Processing Disorder cope with Emotions

To help them better understand their feelings they need to be reassured that it is okay to have them, and then tell them what each one is called as they experience it. Offer reassurance and calming techniques (rubbing their back, firm hugs, music, lights, movement or a weighted blanket for example). It may help to have emotions printed on face picture cards so that they can see what they are feeling. These will also help aid the individual to communicate how they are feeling (especially good if they are feeling unwell). You may find it helps to have somewhere to put their problem (such as into a Worry Eater).sensory emotion regulation

Sensory Processing Disorder Dreams and Emotions

A good way to identify a child’s emotions is through that of their dreams. Dreams are about the self and can be symbolic or real. This can be confusing for anyone but particular those with Sensory Processing Disorder and/or Autism. They could be what prevents them from trying to sleep and/or waking them up in the night. If you can get them to talk to you about what happens in their dreams it may help to unravel how they are coping emotionally. Again using the visual aids may help with this process as you talk things through.

Ian Wallace, a well-known expert in the field of Dreams talks about children’s dreams interpreted in the following video:


in collaboration with Adjustable beds

sensory lights

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder

You know that feeling of getting back to your own bed – that nowhere else feels just quite right? It is the right temperature, the size of the bed (being just right for the position you want to be in), the feel of the sheets, blankets and pillows as well as the hardness of the mattress and maybe even the smell of the room. When you are away it is these little things that may mean you find it difficult to sleep – possibly even making you feel irritable. This is just a small insight into what it may be like for someone with Sensory Processing Disorder to get to sleep – even in their own room. When The Sensory Seeker struggles with sleep I try to consider each and every one of the senses and try to eliminate things that may be keeping him awake. The main problem is he may not even know what it is – so cannot really communicate what the problem is.trying to sleep

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Temperature is wrong

We know what it is like trying to sleep when it is too hot – or even too cold. But generally we are able to adjust this – turn on a fan, grab an extra blanket, wear more or less clothes. The individual with Sensory Processing Disorder may either not realise that this is the sense causing the problem, or be able to take action, or possibly it could cause more problems (eg the fan interferes with the noise sense, the extra blanket the touch sense and so on). I think it is important to also understand that just because you think it is getting cold at night now may not be how they are feeling – we are all different after all. You may really need to just experiment with fans, heaters, layers of clothing//blankets etc – and just keep listening to the individual with SPD (not just their words but how they react). It may change every night. They may be asking for water and you may think it is a distraction, but they could genuinely be too hot. Be careful not to give them too much to drink at night that results in a problem with bedwetting though!

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Touch is wrong

Do you have to sleep with a blanket touching you even though you are boiling hot? Trying to sleep when things do not feel right is probably the problem we can relate to the most. Again this is about experimentation and listening to the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder until the right combinations of touch are found: A technique called Brushing may help before bed or using weighted blankets (although they are controversial as to whether they could be taken off in an emergency okay). Try different nightwear (or without), blankets, pillows – even think about the air! For example is that fan blowing on them? This could be something they like or dislike! You may need to think about the position of the fan – is it blowing from above or to the side, can you move it? How hard is the bed? Could you put a blanket underneath the sheet to make it softer?sleeping in leaves

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Smell is wrong

I think smell is hugely neglected when it comes to considering how to help in general  but it can be just as much of an annoyance as the other senses. Before even thinking about trying to get to sleep I make sure that I open the windows in the day to allow fresh air in (and shut them at night to keep the noise out). For our Sensory Seeker what works is keeping a fresh smell (and sometimes using air fresheners). Again you really need to just try and smell the room, and work with the individual adjusting things that MAY (or may not) be the problem until you hit on the perfect combination (which can then just as easily change the next night).

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Light is wrong

Whether it is having the room dark or light which helps them to sleep, I think that it is one of the easier things to control. If the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder wants light there are all manner of different lights, designs, colours, shapes and sizes on the market to meet each of their individual needs, and allowing them to be positioned where they need to be. Of course there are even ones to meet any obsessions they have too.

sensory lightsThe Sensory Seeker says that he is afraid of the dark however (possibly just due to his age); that monsters are going to get him. Trouble is he is really sensitive to light and it wakes him up (yay for winter on its way!). To get around this we have a blackout blind and have positioned his bed away from the window. If this had not of worked we were going to try a sleep mask (which he would have liked as he likes the sense of touch). However, also consider whether they will be trying to get out of bed whilst still wearing the mask – my husband worried that if we got one then The Sensory Seeker half asleep would try to go to the toilet in the night without removing the mask and fall down the stairs. We also got him a Worry Eater to which we have told him will eat his anxieties and protect him from danger.

Of course you also need to take into account other visual factors such as the colour of the room, how cluttered it is with things to see, etc.

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Noise level is wrong

I like it quiet when I am trying to sleep in bed and would rather have a window shut on a hot day than hear the sound of a dog barking or a car alarm going off. Your child may be able to sleep with ear defenders or ear plugs if the noise is too loud. If you are really lucky you could sound proof the room. But not everyone wants quiet whilst they try to get to sleep or are sleeping – and some kind of radio may help with this – or reading/singing to them until they fall asleep. Or leave some white noise – like a vacuum on for them. In fact our own Sensory Seeker has been known to listen to Yoga Nidra to help get to sleep (this helps switch the brain between the nervous systems as well as providing him with the noise input he needs).

Also you need to think about body position – I said above I like quiet when trying to sleep in bed because I know if I am sitting up in a moving car I actually find it easier to sleep if the music is on (when I am a passenger I made add). This is just an example how things you may think you have found the answer to for one of the senses can change when you consider another.

Trying to sleep with Sensory Processing Disorder when the Taste is wrong

This goes back to what happens before bed – I guess how long before they go that they brush their teeth. We find allowing The Sensory Seeker to brush his teeth and get ready for bed a while before actually going to bed helps – and this may be to do with the fact that he is not distracted by the taste of the toothpaste flavour when trying to go to sleep. I know it sounds silly but it really is important just to focus on each sense and really have a good think about what could be stopping them.

Of course it could be that the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder you are trying to get to sleep is just a human being – and we all struggle or don’t want to go to sleep sometimes do we?! Especially if they are a child – I remember trying to stay awake all night with my sister, or they could be excited/anxious. Give them plenty of time to talk – however hard they find expressing their feelings.

 

Written in Partnership with The Lighting Superstore

Sleep and Sensory Processing Disorder

Sleep and Sensory Processing Disorder

Sleep and Sensory Processing DisorderSleep is possibly the most significant factor with our son’s Sensory Processing Disorder, and when I say sleep I mean lack of it. Have no fear that he has burnt off the calories he has eaten because he doesn’t eat much or keep still. In fact even when he is playing a computer game he is jumping up and down. At almost 6 he still cannot sleep throughout the night. The paediatrician told us that she thought if we could manage to get him to sleep better, then it would help all other things fall into place. We have now managed to establish a good bedtime routine so that he is able to fall asleep every night. The trouble The Sensory Seeker has is staying asleep.

Things to consider about Sleep and Sensory Processing Disorder

What is keeping them awake? Is it the noise? The visuals? The tactile? This could be because of the lights (do they need a light on? Or is there some sunlight seeping in that is annoying them?), textures – are their pyjamas annoying them or are they not getting enough tactile input?), are they disturbed by noise of others? Or is it too quiet? Is it too hot or cold? Do they have enough pressure on them (from blankets) or too much? Is their pillow soft enough? Or too soft? Do they need a tidy environment or one with lots going on?

Things that can help with Sleep and Sensory Processing Disorder Prior to Bedtime

Once you have established what it is keeping them awake you can try to work towards trying to resolve it. Think about all the things that happen in the run up to bedtime that affect their senses. Think about all the things that the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder requires and try to match those needs.

Developing a routine and a consistent way of doing things is helpful and can reduce the impact of over-reacting. Organisation can give the child a sense of control over their day. Avoid television or computer games an hour or two before bedtime and provide a quiet winding-down time, with a low-key story. We have a bath routine, which then follows brushing teeth, getting into pjs and a story. We did start with a short story and a song, as his attention has expanded we have been able to make this longer. As he has become more and more interested in things we have been able to engage him more easily too (such as with his current LEGO book). You could also try providing a snack that can provide slow-release nutrients through the night to avoid a drop in blood sugar.

Sleep and Sensory Processing Disorder – The Environment

Think carefully about the environment you are trying to get them to sleep in, and again try to adapt it to their needs. If it is too noisy then would they sleep with ear plugs in? Could you reduce the noise (shutting the door, not flushing the toilet at night)? Is it the birds – is there a window open? If there’s not enough noise is it possible for them to sleep with a radio on? Can you adjust the temperature with central heating or blankets? Are they comfortable in the bed – the mattress/pillow/pjs/blankets – could you help them with a weighted blanket or by surrounding them with teddies? Tuck them into the bed with their blankets. Could you cut out light with blackout blinds, a thick curtain or an eye mask? Or how about one of those tunnels that goes over the bed. How is the room decorated – what colour are the walls – is there too much information on them, or not enough?

The Sensory Seeker and Sleep

he is disabledWe are finding that The Sensory Seeker does sleep much better than he used to but still wakes throughout the night. We have kept him in “night pants” at night because he still wets in the day, and is not ready to be dry at night. We have tried to leave him in pants (as he is aware that he is getting older and does not want to be a baby) but this was further disturbing his sleep, which I agree is further adding to his problems of concentration and so on the next day. We have tried him in his own room and he kept coming in to us. So now he is sharing with his brother (on the bottom bunk) but still he is unable to sleep throughout the night. I think the main factor is noise that disturbs him but cannot be sure.

Please if you have any further tips on Sleep and Sensory Processing Disorder then add them below.

sleep tips and special needs

Sleep tips for those with Sensory Processing Disorder

If sensory issues impact on your child’s bedtime, here are five tips from Antonia Chitty and Victoria Dawson, authors of Sleep and Your Special Needs Child, to help you help your child to sleep more easily.

sleep tips and special needs

 8 Sleep tips to help your child with sensory issues

  1. Consider every aspect of your child’s bedtime experience in terms of sensory processing and try to think about what they are trying to communicate to you.  For example one child got out of bed throughout the night to sleep on the floor, she was showing that she needed firm sleeping surface.  Once this was recognised and a more appropriate mattress purchased her sleep patterns improved considerably.
  2. Your sense of smell is at work even when you are fast asleep. For a child who is extremely smell sensitive this can create difficulties at bedtime.  Consider any smells that may interrupt their sleep such as cooking late in the evening or a change in washing powder for the bedding that surrounds them.
  3. Some children cannot tolerate the feel of certain textures, others prefer to sleep without clothing on.  Experiment with different nightwear until you find something that your child tolerates.  If they do not like to wear clothing you need to consider the fact that our body temperature dips during the early hours meaning they are more likely to wake up if they get too cold.
  4. Weighted blankets can help some children to feel more grounded at bedtime.  You should always take professional advice from your child’s Occupational Therapist before using weighted blankets.
  5. Some youngsters are extremely light sensitive and prefer a completely darkened room in order to sleep more easily.  Blackout blinds can be helpful in creating the right environment, some children cannot tolerate the LED light on a television or light seeping in from underneath the door.
  6. Many children are sound sensitive and may awaken easily.  Using white goods noise such as a fan whirring in the background can help to mask out background noises.
  7. Some children like to rock in order to get to sleep, while this can look alarming it can help them to soothe themselves to sleep.  Build in rocking activities during the run up to bedtime to help them to feel calm, such as using a swing.
  8. We all have sensory preferences when it comes to sleep habits.  Some individuals prefer a firm pillow, others a soft one.  As adults we often inflict our own sensory needs on our child when choosing their bedroom and furnishings.  Put aside your own preferences and think about what your child prefers, speak with their therapists to allow you to build in their sensory needs during bedtime.

sleep sen

Think about your child’s own preferences, and prioritise these tips to work through, starting with the one that is most appropriate for your child. Introducing one change at a time is easier for the child, can show you which change is most effective, and give you an indicator what else to change to help you and your child have a great night’s sleep.

Sleep and Your Special Needs Child is on offer at just under £9 at time of writing. It addresses sleep problems using a highly successful behavioural and cognitive approach to sleep management, and is the first book to explain these approaches in detail. The practical advice contained is invaluable for parents who want to feel more in control and more confident about tackling sleep issues in a way that is appropriate for their child.

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My Review post on Pinkoddy: Sleep and Special Needs

This is a Guest Post. I have received nothing in return for it I just wanted to share the advice.