Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sense and Sensibility

When you purchase an item, usually an electronic device, it comes with a manual. This manual tells you what you need to know to get the contraption working and running fast. There is also a section, usually located in the back, for troubleshooting problems with the machine.

It’s too bad that children don’t come with these manuals, right? This is especially true for those with sensory issues. That’s been said many times throughout the years, but now there may be a manual for those who live with problems related to their senses. Granted, it’s not the most extensive guidebook, but it will help in understanding these problems, especially for parents of children who are newly diagnosed.

The Autism Sparks page, which I wrote about last week, has recently posted a link to the PDF file “Making Sense of Sensory Behaviour: A Practical Approach at Home for Parents and Carers”. As you may be able to tell from the title this is a pamphlet out of the United Kingdom by Lesley Beath & Lindsay Park of the Children with Disabilities Team.


The link to the pdf file is located: Now that’s a long address, but you can also find it by just going to the facebook page or trying a search on Google or Yahoo.


So what does this article have? There is an explanation of what sensory issues are and how they affect children. It gives some signs to look for in a child to know if they might have sensory issues. Finally it gives advice of what you should do to help calm the child.


I’m going to hit on some of the good points in each category to help you out. I would recommend checking out the site for a more in-depth resource.


The first part explains two sources of sensory input. There is the internal that comes from within our bodies, and the external that comes from outside sources. The following clarifies these a little better:

“Internal Environment.

• Sitting for a prolonged period on an uncomfortable seat –‘the feeling’ of being uncomfortable/unstable, the chair digging into legs, perhaps making us feel sore.


A typical Response:-

• Fidget to get into a more comfortable position or getting up from chair.


External Environment.

• Being in a busy classroom. Noise from other young people, chairs dragging on floor, people walking past classroom door.


A Typical Response:-

• Difficulty concentrating on what teacher is saying. Tendency to focus on one sensory input (e.g. watching people outside the classroom) rather than filter out what we do not need to pay attention to at that time.”


It goes on to explain that if we can begin to pinpoint these sensory inputs that work overtime on the nerves of our over or under sensitive children then we can help them live with less stress in their lives. This can cut down on meltdowns and other behavior issues. If you can cut down on the things that send our children over the edge they are less likely to have these problems with conduct.


The good part about this is that there is a section about how to read the signs that your child has sensitivities. This section includes things to look for in over and under-sensitive children. The list has hearing, vision, taste/smell, touch, movement, and body awareness. An example would be; for Low Sensitivity the child may enjoy really loud noise, and/or fail to pick up expected cues.


The calming strategies are the real informative and interesting part. Now some of these I have seen or used in the past. For instance: “Sitting under a big blanket”. Konner does this often. He doesn’t sleep well without a heavy blanket on top of him. Another is “Hands on head and pressing down”. This is part of the joint compressions therapy that I have written about in the past. Also, “Snuggling into a small place or corner” is recommended. Konner loves to get into tight spaces that would make most claustrophobic.


Some that I had not heard of though included “Sucking a ‘sweet’ sweet”. This is for a person with taste sensitivities. Another is “Sucking yogurt or a milkshake through a straw”. Lavender scents are also a calming activity. Now I did know this, but I had never thought about it for stimulation issues. They also suggest that you take a walk after school with a backpack on to help unwind from the day. Heavy manual tasks such as working the garden and digging can help as well.


As I said these are only a few ideas to help, but I thought this was a great resource to share. I hope that it helps you find some ways to help your child relax when they are have a strenuous day.


Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column. You can also find all columns archived at


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