I’m revealing the truth about these common, but dangerous, rumors parents are often told about their kids with sensory issues. Learn more so you can help your child overcome sensory issues.
It’s a shame that something as common as sensory issues is, at best, misunderstood and, at worst, totally unknown to many parents and professionals that work with kids. There are so many rumors, myths, and straight up lies about kids that have sensory processing difficulties.
This all stems from a lack of understanding.
And, while I hate these dangerous rumors, I know they’re circulated, passed off as advice, and shared with the best intentions in mind. As a society, we just haven’t informed parents (and professionals) well about sensory.
People don’t know what else to say, so often, they pass along advice that just isn’t true.
The problem is these rumors often create confusion. They distract parents from what’s really helpful in supporting their child in and through their sensory issues.
The Truth About a Child With Sensory Issues
Having a child that has sensory issues can feel exhausting, hopeless, and frustrating. But, the truth is, the reason they’re refusing to wear their clothes or that they’re running around the house like a wild animal is because they have a need.
They can’t communicate it, but they’re acting on what their brain needs.
Refusing to wear clothes is their need to avoid the texture of clothes that feels painful on their skin. Running around the house is their need to move because their brain is saying it needs more stimulation with movement.
I use the phrase “sensory issues” a lot around here, because it’s the term most parents use. There’s already so much confusion around sensory processing, and I want to speak as clearly as possible.
But, I don’t really like the phrase because it makes it sound like kids have something broken in them.
That’s certainly one way to look at it, but I know by using proven sensory strategies that sensory issues can change in a big way for the better. When sensory activities and strategies are used well, a child is getting their sensory needs met.
So let’s call those sensory issues, sensory needs instead.
3 Rumors About Sensory Issues That Aren’t True
Let’s reveal the truth behind these rumors about kids with sensory needs that aren’t true!
#1: They need to be disciplined and learn to “get over it”
Kids with sensory issue – or needs – often seem bad, whiny, lazy, or spoiled. If you’re at a cousin’s birthday party and your child is in full freak out mode, crying, and refusing to be around the other kids, it’s easy for an outsider to look at the situation and think:
“You spoil her. I’d never let my kid act like that. She just needs to be punished for causing such a scene at Suzie’s birthday.”
Ouch, it’s hard not to wonder if that’s true.
After all, you don’t like it one bit either, but you know that your child is extremely sensitive to lights, sounds, and people accidentally touching her.
Or, let’s say you’re at Target with your wild-child, and despite your best efforts to reign them in, they’re running through the clothing racks. Easy for someone to make a comment like:
“He just needs disciplined. He’s out of control because of a lack of parenting.”
Yikes! There’s a lot more to it than that. You know your child has an insatiable desire to move that can almost not be stopped. Your trying your best, but it’s really hard.
In either of these examples, the solution begins with first knowing why your child is acting the way they are. But, it doesn’t stop there. Because, in both situations, specific sensory activities and strategies can be used before and during these “sensory issues” to prevent them.
The rumor isn’t true that your child just needs disciplined. What is true, is that they need the right sensory strategies to avoid or overcome them.
#2: Don’t worry they’ll grow out of it
You’ll likely hear this from your kindest friends and family members. And possibly, even your pediatrician. This rumor also comes from a place of not understanding what sensory processing difficulties are.
People don’t know what else to say when you’re explaining the challenges your child has, particularly if they’re only mild to moderate needs.
Doctors mostly have been well trained at this point to look for signs of Autism, but so many kids with sensory needs don’t have or need an Autism diagnosis. If there sensory needs aren’t severe, they get overlooked.
While some sensory needs get better as kids get older and learn to cope and make their own adjustments, it’s not true for all kids. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find all sorts of articles and support for adults with sensory needs. I myself have read some painful comments here on Your Kid’s Table from adult readers on our sensory posts, saying they wish somebody had helped them when they were little.
If you know your child has some sensory needs, you don’t have to accept the “Don’t worry they’ll grow out of it” advice.
Instead, take steps to learn more so you can help them. We have a free 3 Secrets to Calm and Focus Your Child with Sensory Activities workshop that’s available just through tomorrow 3/11/21, that you can watch as soon as you sign up here.
#3: There must be something “wrong” with them. Or, if they have a diagnosis, “it’s the diagnosis”
When somebody listens to your concerns about your child, they may tell you something is wrong with them. That they need a diagnosis.
There’s a chance that a diagnosis might be helpful, but focusing on a diagnosis can distract you from addressing the actual sensory needs they have. Let me be the voice to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with your child.
But, they might need some help and special sensory strategies.
Even if your child does odd things like spinning in circles without getting dizzy, smelling the carpet all the time, or chewing on the collar of their shirt until it’s shredded, remember, they can’t help what they’re doing.
They’re just responding to how their brain is processing all the sensations in and around them.
At the same time, if your child already has a diagnosis of Autism or ADHD, others may look at the sensory needs your child has and dismiss them as part of their diagnosis.
This happens a lot. The big problem with it is that kids with Autism and ADHD also have a lot of sensory needs and if those needs are met through sensory activities that meet their needs, then their behaviors and interactions can get so much better. (Learn more about the link between autism and sensory processing.)
The point here is not to minimize sensory issues or think they just have to be accepted. Accepting them is a great place to start, but that’s not the end of the story. Now they need those activities and strategies to overcome them!
Learn How to Bust Through Your Kid’s Sensory Issues
If you want to learn the sensory activities and strategies to help your child bust through all their sensory “issues”/needs, then I hope you’ll join me inside our brand new online program: RISE with Sensory. This online course, that’s filled with support from me personally, close tomorrow on March 11 at midnight.
Inside the program, you’ll find video lessons, demonstration videos of specific therapy based sensory strategies, dozens of printables, and much more.
Click here to learn more about RISE with Sensory!
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 15 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.
I teach pre-k 4 and have two boys that chew their shirt collars. One came back from Christmas break chewing. At nap time he rolls around and chews on his blanket. Yesterday I noticed he has started on his pencils. What can I do to help?
My son has started chewing his shirt collars too. We ordered some chewelry on Amazon, a 3 pack of plastic shark tooth necklaces. He likes them and if I see him chewing his shirt I just remind him about his necklace. He’s in 1st grade and he started chewing about the time they went back to in person school in January this year. Interestingly he doesn’t do it at school, I think because he wears a mask at school.
He Wanda, it sounds like they are seeking that input. I’d talk with the parents about it and see if they can provide an alternative for them to chew on as needed “chewlry” is a good option, or just a simple chewy tube can be helpful.