‘Tis the Season for Sensory Overload

It’s a time of year that can certainly overwhelm the senses for many of us– flashing lights littering many lawns and homes, Christmas music blasting from department store speakers, crowds… crowds…. CROWDS. For some people though, sensory overload can be an everyday experience that leads to many moments of discomfort.

What is Sensory Overload?

Some children may become overwhelmed when they experience too many sensations coming into the body at one time. This is called sensory overload. Some examples of sensory overload may include too much noise or a sound that is too loud. A child may become visually overwhelmed in crowded places. More movement than the body can process can also be challenging, such as a ride at an amusement park.   

Children generally respond to sensory overload in two ways. First, they may try remove themselves from the overstimulating environment such as going off in a corner to trying to limit the amount of stimulation. Some children may also respond to sensory overload by acting out behaviorally. Your child may become irritable or defiant, scream, cry, or lash out at others. Your child’s ability to respond appropriately is based on the foundation of their basic senses: touch, vision, hearing, movement, and an internal awareness of where they are in space. A child who has difficulty integrating their senses may be diagnosed with a  sensory processing disorder. A pediatric occupational therapist can support a child with this disorder.

What is Pediatric Occupational Therapy?

Pediatric occupational therapists help children develop their occupation to its fullest potential. A child’s occupation is, of course, different from an adult’s. Your child’s main occupation is to play and to learn. As such, occupational therapy goals might include: improving fine motor skills, coordination, muscle strength, cognitive and visual perceptual skills, attention, and following directions. Pediatric occupational therapists working with sensory processing disorder will work to support a child in organizing and maturing their nervous system.

What Can You Do About Sensory Overload?

There are ways to minimize sensory overload this holiday season! Keep your child’s regular routine with adequate sleep and regular nutritious meals and snacks. Ensure they exercise regularly. Plan a schedule that spreads out holiday activities and include down time to help your child’s nervous system to relax.

Get more ideas for supporting your child in navigating sensory overload at the upcoming Parents’ Heart-to-Heart: Helping your child self-regulate using sensory techniques on December 11 at 7pm.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in inspiring children, young adults and families to live in health and joy and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes, occupational therapy, and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Anne Swiderek, Pediatric Occupational Therapist, & Navneet Lahti, Wellness Director, at Intuition Wellness Center

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