Tag Archives: parenting

How Parents Can Give Sensory Support to Older Children

When it comes to older children parents can help them learn to manage their own sensory needs. The most important thing to realise, is that it is the children themselves who know best. They are the ones experiencing things and can tell what works and what doesn’t.

boy wearing glasses in school uniform

Here are some suggestions for parents helping their older children to learn to manage their own sensory needs. Special thanks to some local parents for their help some neurodivergent themselves.

How Parents Can Help Older Children

First parents need to accept that their child is making those choices because they need to, rather than the fact they are trying to get out of something. But, on the other hand not all of them really will be to do with the sensory needs, but that they are becoming more autonomous, just like their peers.

As they mature it could be that the child can hold a full and frank conversation on the issue, and less likely that parents will need to rely on making conclusions based on their behaviour alone.

listening to older children

Parents should let children express their views and respect their decisions. Parents should listen to what they are told – believing it and acting accordingly. Parents should assume competence in their child, including when judging when the child can or cannot handle something, and what supports that young person needs in place.

Give Older Children More Choices

Parents/carers have to show them that they have choices; which will also help them to feel in control of their decisions. This will also hopefully promote independence. Allowing self-management where possible. However, try not to limit the choices, giving as many as possible.

Allow them to select things when shopping for clothes, or deciding what to wear (I know how I like to wear the same clothes – for me it is the feel and the practicality); by having lots of breakfast options available for them to select from; and so on. See Sensory Processing Issues with Clothing.

sensory processing issues with clothes
Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash

Alter Your Boundaries Accordingly

Question why we want things a certain way. Is it really important (eg their teeth will become bad, risk of skin cancer for not wearing sun cream) or is it something we would like them to do? Personally I get hot super easily and people always want me to wear more clothes when they feel it is colder – how many parents feel that their child NEEDS a coat in winter, when they’re honestly not cold!

This may mean altering your own boundaries of what you feel is acceptable. In the breakfast example our son will eat plain pancakes but cannot make them himself. He has recently started learning to cook himself toast but will only eat it smeared in jam. As parents we do not feel that jam every day is good for his health, but actually his independence is more important. We keep having discussions about why we do not feel jam every day is good and suggest alternatives but ultimately it is him who needs to decide to change this.

lots of jam on toast - helping older children be independent

Give Older Children Explanations

This will involve having plenty of discussions about things. This will also help them to consider and extend their understanding of their own needs.

Like it is no good just telling them that they have to brush their teeth but what could happen as a consequence if they chose not to do so. That the choice is actually theirs. Get them to consider what it is about brushing their teeth that makes them not want to do it. Help them think about the choices they have in regards to when, where and how they brush (what type of brush and paste) their teeth.

Help them to Understand their Sensory Needs

It may be that the child does not understand and needs more support. Sometimes the child will have put in their own strategies but without even realising it. Parents could talk to their child and help them better understand what tools and strategies they are using. For example, I know that The Sensory Seeker calms down when he gets into his Art or Music.

Egg Carton Christmas Trees

This may include acting out scenarios – even things that have happened before or what may happen so that they know what to do in that situation. Help them devise a sensory diet and incorporate feedback into daily activities.

Vulnerability

The chronological age may not match development, so make sure that everything is appropriate for where they are at. Develop the language around sensory awareness and model it. Also be aware that some of the ways they may self soothe may need monitoring too – especially for things like online gaming.

I hope this has been useful; is there anything else you can think of please?

See also: EHCP Phase Transfer Review Year 10

Advice on Periods

This question is one I am answering as part of the FREE Virtual Sensory Integration Education Annual Conference November 2022

Sensory seeker eating nicely - concentrating on the positives when having a bad day

Bad days

Sometimes a bad day happens and it is amplified by the fact that it isn’t just a bad day, it is another bad day, with yet another meltdown. That if you have any time and energy left after fighting the bad day to look for help that you are met with either a brick wall or blame. It seems that this blame seems to occur more when there do not seem to be any answers – instead of just saying sorry we sympathise but we do not know what to do. Throwing In the towel of despair will not help anyone so trying to find the positives will help a lot.

I try to think about what may be causing the bad day. Is it a change in routine – such as a new school, Christmas (is a big one), Easter, school holidays, a new baby, a change of house.  For me, the easiest ways to deal with them are to tell myself that they will not last forever. Actually once the routine returns things will be easier. It helps by trying to make things as normal and routine as possible. I simply found over the holidays that keeping busy was enough to distract him from feeling anxious. Are their needs being met? –have they moved about enough that day, do their clothes feel right, is it too noisy, not bright enough. If not is there anything that can be done to help meet their needs.

Sensory Temperature Issues and Possible SolutionsFocus on their achievements – try to at least focus onsomething positive each week. When days are hard I can just remind myself about how far he has come. His language development, how he is getting himself dressed, putting on his own shoes, learning to listen, wait, eating better and try to empathise with others. He was angry at school yesterday and he locked himself in the toilet (by standing behind the door). His one to one managed to get him to come out and I am proud to say that he apologised – what an achievement that is. He is back in group swimming lessons now, and he is doing so well that I am able to take my other two children into the main pool and swim at the same time.Sensory seeker eating a picnic concentrating on the positive

Think about others. Could your situation be worse? Sometimes thinking about how things aren’t actually that bad do help. Maybe looking back and asking yourself if this is your worst day. Then maybe if the answer is yes then tomorrow could be a better day. Remember you probably aren’t alone and there are many other parents in a similar situation. This is especially useful if it has been suggested that you “attend a parenting course,” which is something I hear of a lot.

Make time for yourself – don’t forget that you are important too. Whether that is looking after your health – not skipping on breakfast, to getting some quiet time to read a book, have a bath.

What about you? How do you handle a bad day? Are there any strategies that help the child? What about ways to help you deal with the day?