Sensory overload can happen to any child who had been exposed to too much sensory stimulation. Children would often show signs of sensory overload after a particularly busy day, such as a trip to the mall or a birthday party. Here are some signs of sensory overload in kids:
- Fussiness and crying;
- Over- or under-reaction to sensory stimuli (for example, a child doesn’t react he or she is being talked to, or else covers his or her ears at the softest noise);
- Lashing out at small issues.
In addition, some children may exhibit signs of sensory processing disorder, wherein they live in a perpetual state of sensory overload. Here are some warning signs that your child may have a sensory processing disorder:
- Acute awareness of background noises;
- Very high pain threshold (doesn’t feel pain as easily as others);
- Hyperactivity or under-activity;
- Fearful with swings and jungle gyms;
- Avoiding contact with certain textures, smells, or sounds.
If you suspect that your child is suffering from sensory processing disorder, it is best to seek professional help from a sensory integration therapist. Occupational therapists usually specialize in this area.
When children show signs of sensory overload, you can do the following to help them calm down and integrate their senses in an appropriate way:
- Remove unnecessary sensory stimulation from the environment (switch the TV off, take the dog out, and close the window opening to a noisy street).
- Encourage your child to spend some time on his or her own, either resting on the bed or playing with toys alone.
- Read a soothing picture book together. The even cadence and rhythm of your voice while you read aloud to your child will help calm him or her down.
- Let your child quietly play with play dough since the tactile feedback of playing with clay can help him or her integrate senses appropriately.
- Provide a healthy, chewy snack like carrot sticks or popcorn. The oral sensation of chewing a crunchy snack can help some children cope with sensory overload.