Does your child experience extreme sensitivity to touch, loud noises, bright lights, and strong smells? Do you see them struggling to concentrate due to their uncomfortable clothing? Do your kids throw temper tantrums when getting a bath, brushing their teeth or a haircut? If you can relate to these, your child may be dealing with sensory overload. The prevalence of SPD among school-aged children ranges from 5 to 16 percent, making it more common than both ADHD and ASD. Keep reading to find more tips to manage sensory overload in children.
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What is sensory overload?
Overstimulation of one or more of the body’s five senses is known as sensory overload. Many autistic children have difficulties processing sensory information. Children who are experiencing sensory overload will be hyperresponsive or hyporesponsive to touch, smell, taste, texture of food, sound, temperature, clothes, haircuts etc. As a result, they may exhibit meltdowns, withdrawal, or other challenging behaviours.
Also check, Sensory processing disorder in children
Tips to manage sensory overload in children
1.Brushing the teeth
Some children may experience anxiety or frustration as a result of this lack of sensation or numbness in the oral region when going through the processes of brushing their teeth. On the other hand, some children are overly sensitive when anything goes near the mouth. Occupational therapy is helpful for them to live as independently as possible and speech therapy can improve the oral motor skills which thereby help to manage the sensory overload.
- Toothbrush– Choose a toothbrush with silicone or soft bristles instead of normal ones. These are gentle ones which can help to make your kid less sensitive.
- Toothpaste- Avoid using regular toothpastes which can cause burning sensation in kids. Use kid-friendly toothpastes which are available in various flavours and colours.
- Reward them with a colourful star or heart stickers when they did everything right, which can encourage them to brush their teeth.
Also check, Types of therapies for autism
2. Bath time
Children experiencing sensory overload may be extremely emotional during bath time. Because they don’t feel safe sitting or moving around in the bath, they could experience fear. They don’t like the sounds or feeling of the water and consider these sensations as disturbing or dangerous.
- Use dim light in the bathroom
- Fill the water before your kid enters as this sound and echo can trigger your kid.
- Adjust the temperature of water as per your kid’s comfort level.
- Allow your kid to select soaps or shampoos that smell pleasant to them or are scent-free.
- Give toys like fish, duck and small cups so they can enjoy their bath time.
- Involve your child in heavy work activities like jumping on a trampoline or climbing up and down stairs which can help them to relax and calm during bath.
Also check, Tips to maintain personal hygiene
3. Food sensitivities
Children may refuse to eat food due to sensory overload as they may be sensitive to the texture, smell, colour or taste of food. Oral motor exercises, occupational therapy and sensory integration therapy can help to manage sensory overload.
- Asking your kid questions that clarify their feelings and difficulties while eating can be quite helpful.
- Present the same food in an attractive way.
- Introduce a new food that is nutrient-dense yet still has the desired texture (beetroot chips instead of potato chips)
- Start asking your child to simply sniff or lick the meal when served for the first time
- Put food in plastic bags and write letters or shapes on them. This can help your child to touch the foods without hesitating and improves the sensory skills.
Also check, Food sensitivities in Kids
4. Sound sensitivities
Children who deal with sound sensitivity may scream or cry in distress when they hear sounds including television, speakers, alarms, sirens, crackers etc. Some may even be sensitive to breathing, whispering, chewing or slurping sounds.
- Figure out the sounds which make your child anxious
- List out those triggers
- Carry a set of noise-cancelling headphones with you
- Identify the locations where your kid feels secure and at peace
- Engage your child in other activities which can help them to divert from unpleasant noises.
- Help your child to practise those sounds as it can improve the tolerance capacity.
Also check, Sound sensitivities in Children
5. Clothing issues
Kids may find some clothes itchy due to sensory overload and it will begin to impact a child’s capacity to function in daily life.
- Don’t force your child to wear uncomfortable clothes like socks, tight jeans or fancy dresses.
- Figure out what your child likes to wear.
- Have extra time to pre-prepare the clothes. Don’t rush everything at the last minute to avoid meltdowns.
- Show them different clothes with different textures and fit. Allow your child to choose the clothes.
- Prefer buying sensory clothes which are available without tags, seamless socks or compression clothes.
- Set a time frame. So, kids can improve their tolerance within the time frame and they can take it off the dress after that set time.
Also check, Sensory activities for kids
Children with sensory issues may not accept “gentle touches” but may like deep pressures. Hairdressers will gently touch the kid’s head with comb, scissors or buzzing trimmers which can trigger the kids. They may also be sensitive to hair dryer sound, crowd noises and scissor snipping sound. As a result, kids may act aggressively like crying, screaming, hitting, biting due to sensory overload.
- Take your child to less crowded salon
- Let your kid sit on your lap
- Use your own cape or towel instead of salon cape
- Make sure your youngster is wearing a jacket over their dress so that you can quickly take it off after the haircut is finished to avoid hair fragments
- Give your kid a tiny mirror so they can see clearly what ‘s happening to their hair.
- Allow the child to use earplugs or headphones to reduce external noise.
- Give some soothing sensory toys like slime, sensory bottles or sensory books
- You can also play a playlist of their preferred songs. In this manner, kids are aware that their haircut will finish when the playlist does.
- Choose the same salon again. Children tend to become less anxious in familiar environments.
- After getting a haircut, take your child to their favourite location or engage them in their favourite activity so that they will remember it favourably.
Also check, Benefits of sensory bins
Foods to manage sensory overload
All nuts, including almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, and hazelnuts, are high in vitamin E and aid in memory enhancement. They are also antioxidants that protect cells from damage. Walnuts are high in omega 3 fatty acids and are beneficial to sensory sensitivity, brain function, memory, and cognitive abilities. This fatty acid is also beneficial to cognitive functions.
Also check, Best nuts for protein
Aside from nuts, seeds such as flax, chia, melon, sesame, and pumpkins contain potent antioxidants such as vitamin E, which protect the brain from free radical damage. Sunflower seeds have an effect on overall mood and mental processing abilities, so they are regarded as a brain-boosting snack. Pumpkin seeds contain more magnesium, copper, and zinc than other seeds, which aid in eye contact, concentration, and memory. One of the simplest brain-boosting foods for children to consume.
Also check, Benefits of pumpkin seeds
It is a small woody plant native to India and North Africa. Ashwagandha has a strong affinity for GABA receptors. As a result, Ashwagandha can be used to treat Autism symptoms such as sensory issues, memory loss, anxiety, and attention deficit.
Also check, More benefits of Ashwagandha
Brahmi is a brain superfood that is believed to sharpen the brain by protecting cells and increasing chemicals involved in learning and memory. It acts on the CNS, where it improves grasping power, eye contact, memory, intellect, and speech, as well as correcting sensory sensitivity, emotional, mood, and personality aberrations in an individual.
Also check, More benefits of Brahmi
In order to improve brain functioning, shankhapushpi is an old remedy. The powerful antioxidants and flavonoids present in it improve the memory capacity, focus, concentration, calmness, alertness of an individual. Since it is a brain tonic and stimulator, people taking shankhapushpi have improved autism features like sensory issues, memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities.
Also check, Herbs that help to manage brain fog
6.OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS:
There is a link between omega 3 fatty acids and early childhood brain development, according to research. These healthy fats have incredible brain-boosting properties, additionally play an important role in improving autism features like sensory sensitivity, memory, and attention span. Fish and walnuts are excellent sources of omega 3.
Also check, Why is Omega 3 important for your kids?
Magnesium is responsible for nerve transmission and nerve-muscle coordination in our bodies. In other words, it guards against a child’s excessive excitement (which can be traumatic). It also increases the effectiveness of vitamin B, which is important in the production of enzymes required by the brain. It may improve sensory sensitivity and reduce behavioral issues.
Zinc is a mineral that our bodies require in trace amounts. Because our bodies do not store zinc, we must consume small amounts of it on a regular basis to maintain our health. It is required for proper brain development and function, immune function, protein synthesis, and wound healing.
Also check, How can zinc help with hair and skin health?
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