Does your child demonstrate oversensitivity to certain noises, tastes, smells, or textures? They may be showing signs of sensory defensiveness. Sensory defensiveness is a negative reaction to a stimulus that most people would not perceive as negative. Children with sensory defensiveness show negative reactions to one or more types of sensations (e.g. touch, texture, taste, smell, or sound). Children with sensory defensiveness over-react to sensory input and become easily frustrated and/or bothered. These children may have difficulty processing sensory information. There are four different types of sensory defensiveness, including tactile defensiveness, gravitational defensiveness, auditory defensiveness and oral defensiveness.
- Tactile defensiveness involves the tactile system, which is our sense of touch. Children with tactile defensiveness may overact to touch experiences, avoid daily activities (e.g. brushing their teeth, taking a bath), avoid light touch (e.g. taps on the shoulder, kissing, etc.), or seek deep pressure.
- Gravitational defensiveness involves the vestibular system, which is our sense of movement and balance. Children demonstrating gravitational defensiveness may have abnormally fearful emotional reactions to something like swinging or climbing.
- Auditory defensiveness involves fearful reactions to sound, such as covering ears when exposed to loud noises. Children with auditory defensiveness may display atypical emotional reactions when they hear a vacuum cleaner or leaf blower.
- Oral defensiveness involves taste, smell, and tactile input. Children with oral defensiveness may be picky eaters, gag from certain textures, tastes, and/or smells during meals, and/or dislike brushing their teeth.
Sensory stimulation kits are utilized by parents, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and teachers. Sensory kits are used to expose children to new feelings and encourage responses. Sensory kits can be used for children of all ages to build schema, describe sensations, incorporate motor movements and play. When a child plays with a sensory bin, they are playing with a variety of materials and textures which stimulate the mind beyond what other toys can achieve. Sensory stimulation can help children develop focus, expand vocabulary, engage their mind through senses, improve fine motor skills, etc. Sensory kits can be paired with any of your favorite books! Here are some examples of easy sensory bins to make:
-Kristen Meaney, MA, CF-SLP
Source: Super Duper Publications