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 causing what.
A portion of my son’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 his 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.
My son is often anxious because of sensory overload. And, at other times, his anxiety triggers increased sensitivity. Her advice has also been some of the most helpful I have ever received. We focus not on which diagnosis is causing what. We focus on what works, on what helps my son.
For eight years, 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 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.
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.
With this in mind, I am excited to share this year’s Super Sensory Bundle with you as an easy way to gain insight and learning around how best to help your child.
The bundle includes ~
UNDERSTANDING & ADVOCATING FOR YOUR CHILD’S SENSORY NEEDS
Is it Sensory or Behavior Mini- Course
My Sensory Self Workbook for Kids
Senses Exploration Activities Printable Pack
Sensory Discrimination, Sensory Processing Disorder, Sensory Integration: What does it all mean?
Sensory Processing 101: The Ultimate Guide to Sensory Processing
Sensory Processing Disorder Handbook – A Guide to understand and Explain SPD
The Newbie’s Guide to Sensory Processing
What nobody tells you about sensory: Why your sensory child is bad, weird, and totally frustrating!
HANDLING TANTRUMS, MELTDOWNS, AND OUTBURSTS
The Mindful Parent’s Method for Meltdowns – Understand Your Child, Respond with Love, Strengthen Your Relationship
20 Character Building Cards
A-Z Emotions and Feelings
Calm Down Cards – Strategies for Managing Anger and Frustration
Calming Strategies for Parents Workshop: Helping You Remain Calm to Better Help Your Child
Decoding Sensory Tantrums Mini Course: How to handle tantrums in a positive and simple way
Emotions and Feelings –Hands-on Activities for Preschoolers
Emotions: Daily Tracker and Various Games Printable Pack
Parenting Chaos: Practical Support and Encouragement for Parents of Explosive Children
Quick Tips for Calming & Self-Regulation
Self-Regulation for Adolescents & Teens: A Parent Guide
OVERCOMING SENSORY STRUGGLES: SLEEP TRANSITION, BEHAVIORS, FOCUS, ETC
Executive Function 101: How parents & teachers help struggling students succeed
5 Tips to Improved Sleep for Children with Increased Sensory Needs
Attention and Focus Toolkit for Older Kids: Finding Sensory Strategies to Learn
Picky Eating No More: Kick Start Course, Guide and Resources
Potty Training Visual Schedule and Chart
Rhythms, Routines and Schedules: How to Simplify Life With Kids
Social Stories with Shadow Puppets: Printable Kit for Children, Parents and Therapists
BUILDING LIFE-LONG SKILLS FOR SENSORY KIDS: SOCIAL SKILLS, FINE MOTOR, CHARACTER, AND MORE
Super Social Story Sampler
Mindfulness Cards for Kids
Birds and Bugs: Spring Playdough Literacy Mats
Fine Motor LEGO Pack: All-Year
Fun and Effective Handwriting Practice Tools for Kids
Montessori CVC Mini Books
Montessori CVC Writing Books (Print and Cursive)
Rewiring the Brain Handbook – Part II – Intermediate Level
Summer Fine Motor Activity Card Bundle
BEYOND SENSORY: AUTISM, ADHD, ANXIETY, AND MORE
IEP Checklists with Catherine Whitcher, M.ED
Autism Affirmations for Parents & Kids Bundle
Giftedness & Twice-Exceptional Workshops: Helping Your Kids Through Anxiety, Overexcitabilities, Underachievement, and More
Homeschooling with ADHD: Practical Tips for Teaching Active Kids at Home
How to Handle Sensory-Based Anxiety
SENSORY BREAKS, ACTIVITIES, & TOOLS TO REGULATE AND CALM ‘HIGH-ENERGY’ KIDS
15 Brain Break and Mindfulness Exercises: A Fitness Band Exercise Kit
Alphabet Movement Bundle: Incorporating Movement Into Learning
DIY Home Lycra Maze for Relaxation or Movement
Montessori Movable Alphabet
Oobleck Sensory Science – An invitation to explore, play and learn
Sensory Break Cards for Kids
Sensory Quick Guide: Easy to Make Recipes and Ideas for Play
Simon Says – Body Awareness and Motor Planning Activities
The Amazing Play Dough Printables Pack
The Ultimate Slime Guide: Connect With Kids Through Tactile Sensory Play
Too Slow, Just Right or Too Fast – Visual Supports for Self-Regulation
PLUS THESE BONUSES
$5 Handee-Band Coupon
20% off Fidget Fix
$15 Off Sensory TheraPLAY Box *** Our favorite!!!
Lifetime Access to the Planning Motherhood Online Summit PLUS 3 Months Access to Kids Activities Printable Library
All of this is included, all in one place!
(I told my good friend yesterday that I wish so much that this was an option for me eight years ago. Even today, as I go through the resources and watch the videos, I am learning so much more about how to practically and successfully support my sensory kiddos.)
Click HERE to find out more about the bundle and all of these resources.
Create A Daily Plan
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.
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.
It isn’t an easy road, but my experience has been that it is one that is best traveled together.
For More Encouragement And Support
Shawna Wingert is a special education teacher turned educational consultant, and mom of two brilliant boys who have learning differences and special needs.
Shawna has also written four books: Everyday Autism, Special Education at Home, Parenting Chaos, and Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs. A passionate advocate for individualized education, Shawna is frequently featured on Today.com, Simple Homeschool, Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers and The Mighty. She can also be found supporting parents online at her own site, DifferentByDesignLearning.com.