Living With Sensory Processing Disorder – A Family Affair

What can a parent do? How can a parent mediate Sensory Processing Disorder within family life?
For parents coping with their child’s SPD, Brout offers this advice, “it is helpful to remind yourself that with Occupational Therapy, sensory integration treatment, and as he or she gets older, your child will be able to implement greater control over his or her behavioral reactions to his or her physiological responses. In the meantime, however, regulation (calming the child so that he or she is not over stimulated and agitated) is the first priority.” She goes on to suggest that in order to make this shift, “you must allow yourself to dismiss much of what you have been told about parenting, even by mental health professionals, because it does not apply to SPD children. For now, think of your child as one whose body over-reacts to sensory stimuli, and who is deficient in calming down.” When faced with an agitated child whose behavior is effecting family life, Brout suggests using the three R’s: Regulate, Reason and Reassure

Regulate: “Help your over-responsive child calm down by identifying the source of the sensory stimuli, and shift the focus from any resulting conflict. As a child develops greater language and cognitive skills this process becomes easier. However, even younger children with limited language skills can be regulated. Each child is unique which is why it is essential to consult with a professional.”

Reason: “Once your child is calm, review the incident with him focusing on his thought processes. If he cannot identify the stimuli that triggered his actions, try to do it for him by making suggestions. For younger children, you will have to go through this process with relative simplicity and brevity. With enough consistency your child will understand your message, and will also learn that when he or she is over-stimulated, calming down is the first step! Remember, this process is not an over-night cure!”

Reassure: Remind yourself that your child does not like feeling out of control. Reassure him that over time he will gain control, and that you will help him. Let him know that you expect him to try as hard as he can, but protect his self-esteem and self-image by framing the problem as though it were ‘a work in progress’. Repairing damaged self-esteem and poor self-image is much more difficult than reshaping a child’s misconstrued ideas about the causes and consequences of behavior. No child should see himself as a huge out of control green mutant being that repels others!”

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