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Helping our children who have sensory challenges . . . (part 2)


In my last blog I shared that an inordinate number of adopted and foster children struggle with sensory challenges as compared to children who have experienced more stability in their early years of development. Two of the more common sensory deficits children experience are in the areas of sound/noise and tactile (touch).


Kids who have auditory processing challenges may struggle in several areas. They may have difficulty with rhythm, pitch and timing when listening to, or trying to play a musical instrument. Their brains may actually “block out” certain sounds; but in some cases, they may actually recoil if someone drops a book on the floor, creating a “thud”, or if someone is loudly clapping their hands nearby. For some kids, these type of noises—which for most of us are unremarkable—are overwhelming, causing them to clasp their hands over their ears or run for the nearest exit. On the flip-side, other children with auditory processing challenges may actually love being in the midst of activities that are loud and noisy. These, and other types of auditory deficits may even affect a child’s language development.


Children with tactile deficits may also struggle with a multitude of challenges. Something as simple as a clothing tag on a shirt may feel intolerable to a child with a tactile sensory deficit. Another child may find the textures of certain foods repulsive, giving his or her parents the mistaken impression that the child is just being stubborn and “doesn’t want to eat his vegetables.” In the extreme, some children may even have a hard time processing sensations of temperature or pain level.


How can we help our child if we sense that something is amiss with his or her sensory system? Initially, we need to be keenly observant for patterns of our child’s behavior, which can help us discern whether their problem is behaviorally-based or possibly sensory-based. However, parents should not wait too long or second-guess themselves about whether to get help for their child. The first “line of treatment” is usually connected with a reputable Occupational Therapist to have the child evaluated. Depending on the child’s specific sensory deficit(s), a speech therapist, pediatrician, audiologist or psychologist may also be included in the treatment team for your child.

Above all, I encourage parents to be patient and persistent as a participant in the care plan for their child, as it often takes time to “weed out” the specifics of your child’s sensory challenges. The good news is that there is so much more available in the area of treatment and therapies for sensory-challenges children than there was even just two decades ago.