Sensory Issues and Anxiety: How Do I Help My Child?

Sensory issues and anxiety are so closely linked, it can be difficult to figure out what is actually going on and more importantly, how we can help our children.

A portion of my child’s neuro-psych evaluation includes the following:

This is a child extremely uncomfortable in his own skin. Whether it is driven by his anxiety disorder or sensory processing disorder, it is hard to tell. In reality,  it is likely a combination of both. There is no way to determine which is the originating disorder. Does his anxiety increase sensory issues? Likely yes. Does his sensory processing disorder increase his anxiety? No question. We therefore must treat both.

I have always been grateful to the developmental pediatrician for explaining things so well.

She helped me so much in the early years, as I struggled to find causes and blame. She gently, carefully reminded me over and over again that no matter what the cause, we needed to instead focus on ways to help my child.

It sounds so simple, so elegant, but the truth is, the combination of sensory issues and anxiety for my son has been anything but. 

The doctor’s written words have proven to be absolutely true. 

Is It Anxiety Or Sensory Issues?

My son is often anxious because of sensory overload. At other times, his anxiety triggers increased sensitivity.

Like the doctor said so long ago, we do not focus on which diagnosis is causing what. We focus on what works, on what helps.

For more than a decade, we have been working through sensory issues and anxiety in ways I would have never thought possible when I received that packet from his evaluation. We have found so much success in listening to my son and learning from him.

What feels comfortable? What doesn’t? All the while respecting his needs and encouraging him to try new approaches.

sensory child

Sensory Issues and Anxiety: How Do I Help My Child?

If you, like me, are working through the daily reality of parenting a child with both sensory issues and anxiety, there are a few things that have worked best for us that I would like to share today. My hope is they will help you and yours as well.

Anticipate Both 

I spent way too much time in those early years reacting to my son’s outbursts, rather than trying to anticipate what was causing them in the first place. In the beginning, it seemed overwhelming to try to determine causes, but the truth is, nothing else has made a more significant difference in decreasing his overall levels of anxiety and sensory overload. 

For example, social situations create an atmosphere where both are likely to be aggravated. The increased background noise and unfamiliar food create sensory issues and social gaps create anxiety. Knowing this means I can prepare myself and my son ahead of time. I am better able to remain calm when I am expecting some bumps. My son is better able to cope when he knows what to expect, how to take a break if he needs one, and that I am on his team and concerned for him first.

Learn As Much As You Can

Trying to find the time to do the research and find resources that help us understand and better help our children is difficult, but essential to our overall success. 

Here is a compilation of my favorite resources for parents – Parent Essentials from Different By Design Learning.

Create A Daily Plan For Support

Once I knew a bit more about what my son needed, I was more easily able to create a daily plan that accommodates his sensory needs and helps him learn coping mechanisms.

For us, this includes sensory activities and exercise as well as behavioral therapeutic practice and discussion around triggers and options for coping.

In order to help, I created a Homeschooling With Sensory Needs Workbook that walks you through the steps I take to create a daily and weekly plan that includes sensory input.

Right now, you can take 20% off with the coupon code SENSORY20.

Trust Yourself And Your Child

This is, by far, the very best advice I can possibly give you. 

You have been parenting this child all along, diagnosis or not. Your child has been experiencing the anxiety and sensory overwhelm all along, diagnosis or not. Together, you have what it takes to figure this out and live well.

Sensory Issues, Anxiety And Homeschooling

If you have been following along in our weekly lesson plans, you’ve seen first hand how sensory issues and anxiety impact our learning (and my plans for our learning).

Here is our lesson plan recap for last week, including the activities that specifically help my son cope with anxiety and sensory needs. You will also see in our upcoming plan for this week, there is a constant rotation of activities that help address his needs.

This was much easier when he was younger, but I have found that with a little creativity and attention to what is working and not working for him, we have been able to create a lifestyle that supports all of his needs, educational or not.

Weekly Lesson Plan vs. Reality #37 (includes outside therapies and medical treatments)



  • Physical Therapy – 2 hours
  • YouTube Video or Google Search About A Preferred Topic
  • Blood Plasma Infusion – 4 hours


  • Physical Therapy – 2 hours
  • Reading Practice – Edgar Allan Poe Poems
  • Blood Plasma Infusion – 4 hours



  • Audiobook and Discussion
  • Social Time with friends at school – 1 hour
  • Art class – 1 hour
  • Voice class – 1 hour


  • Audiobook and Discussion – Banned Books
  • Social Time with friends at school – 1 hour
  • Art class – 1 hour
  • Voice class – 1 hour



  • Physical Therapy – 2 hours
  • CTCMath
  • Spelling Practice
  • Chemistry Online
  • Poetry Read Aloud




  • Audiobook and Discussion
  • Social Time with friends at school – 1 hour
  • Guitar Class – 1 hour
  • Rock Climbing Class – 2 hours


  • Audiobook and Discussion
  • Social Time with friends at school – 1 hour
  • Guitar class – 1 hour
  • Rock Climbing Class – 2 hours



  • MapWork – South America
  • Rock Climbing
  • Current Events Discussion
  • Audiobook and discussion
  • Creative Writing – Poetry


  • Ropes Obstacle Course (Sensory and anxiety relief, plus a ton of fun. Although you will never see me on it, he loved it!)

Our Homeschool Lesson Plans For This Week

Week 38Lesson Plan
Monday1. Physical Therapy – 2 hours
2. YouTube Video or Google Search About A Preferred Topic
3. Blood Plasma Infusion – 4 hours
Tuesday1. Audiobook and Discussion
2. Social Time with friends at school – 1 hour
3. Art class – 1 hour
4. Voice class – 1 hour
Wednesday1. Physical Therapy – 2 hours
2. CTCMath
3. Banned Books Study
4. Chemistry Online
5. Poetry Read Aloud
Thursday1. Audiobook and Discussion in car
2. Social Time with friends at school – 1 hour
3. Guitar Class – 1 hour
4. Rock Climbing Class – 2 hours
Friday1. MapWork – South America
2. Rock Climbing
3. Current Events Discussion
4. Audiobook and discussion
5. Creative Writing – Poetry
Reference Note: Every Monday, my son has subcutaneous immunoglobin infusions. This means we typically keep learning to a minimum for the day.
Reference Note: My son attends classes on both Tuesday and Thursday at a specialized private school. This is for elective classes like art and music, as well as social skills.

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    Additional Resources For Strength-Based And Interest-Led Homeschooling

    Take a look at all of our past lesson plans and recaps!

    Research has shown that a learner who spends the most time studying in areas of strength, tends to perform exponentially better in all academics including the areas of weakness.

    These resources are a great place to start!

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    1. Makes me cry-my sensory and anxious gal is getting more anxious as she gets older. Now 14, and starting panic attacks. AND, she is the blessed child of 2 chromosome abnormalities, so her cognition is quite affected. It is SO HARD to help her help herself when her cognition is affected, and once her emotions and overload kick in, it is really hard to help her regulate again. Anxiety is probably the nemesis of today’s age-I have it, another daughter, and another son, and hubby has some issues with it too. SO HARD!!!

      1. The nemesis of today’s age – very well said, Chris. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

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