Tips For Parenting A Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

Today’s guest post is from Celina Miller, a fellow special needs parent who is a passionate advocate for children affected with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

How much sensory can my kid with Sensory Processing Disorder {SPD} take?

This is a question I’m faced with daily. My 12 year old has Asperger’s and with that comes the complex and confusing world of Sensory Processing Disorder. I never know what’s too much, or what’s not enough, sensory input for him. The other day, I’d finally convinced my son to help me clean up our playroom. As he put away toys and straightened up, I started the vacuum. Immediately, he put his hands over his ears and stood completely frozen. He was so overwhelmed he couldn’t even ask me to turn it off, nor could he leave the room. I was taken aback – this wasn’t like my high-functioning sixth grader who plays basketball and loves to dance. I knew the vacuum would bother him, but I thought he would get through it and we would move on.

So why was it that this time the vacuum completely shut him down – whereas before it didn’t? Or why is it that sometimes on the basketball court he covers his ears after the crowd roars and sometimes he’s completely unfazed? I never know how much sensory exposure he can take and so I never know how much I can expose him to – which often leaves me feeling just as uncomfortable as he is.

I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to my son’s sensory issues. How can I know what he’ll react to, and when? The answer is I will never know, and the truth is he often doesn’t know as he’s still learning what works…or how he can make it work for him. If you’re a mom with a child on the spectrum or who has sensory integration dysfunction, you totally understand how I feel like the rug has been pulled out from underneath me, which is probably how my son feels when he’s overstimulated.

Here are five thoughts that help me, and may help you, get through a day in the life of the maze that is sensory integration disorder.

1. What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. A phrase I live by personally, but I have found it translates in the sensory world as well. I don’t avoid stimulating things. Exposing my son to different types of sensory stimuli helps him learn to cope with it and to be prepared the next time he comes across it. And while he may be bothered, it really won’t kill him. He will get over it. I never want to hinder him by what I think he may or may not be able to handle. In this world, I have to take his lead, give up control, and let him learn what works for him and what doesn’t.

2. Every day is a new day, and every day is different. I have learned that each sensory experience is interpreted differently every day. And depending on what else is going on during that experience, my son’s reaction may or may not be different. I’ve come to know that even a slight change in body temperature will make his sensory dysfunction… more dysfunctional. Just like he wakes up every day prepared for the unknown, so am I.

3. Talk about it. When I’m able to talk to my son about his sensory experience, we both understand it better. When I ask him to verbalize what he saw, heard, smelled or felt, he is able to learn from his experience and perhaps handle it differently next time. This conversation also helps me to better understand what’s going on in his world.

4. Don’t sympathize, empathize. I will never feel sorry for my son, I think he’s an amazing person with amazing gifts. He also has challenges to overcome and I do have empathy for that. I hurt when he hurts, and I smile when he smiles. When he’s left overwhelmed, in a different way, I am too. It is in this way that I can empathize with him.

5. Be an advocate. This will help you both. When I’m able to go before my son and tell people he has asperger’s – like at school, church or in sports – I’ve removed the elephant from the room. Is my son amazing and remarkable? yes. Is he also quirky and unbelievably inquisitive? yes. And when others have the opportunity to prepare themselves for the possibility that he may become overstimulated on the basketball court or during a burst of applause in the middle of the school play, everyone has the benefit of more understanding. And this understanding gives them the ability to see my son not for a quirky kid, but for that amazing boy who is gifted and overcoming challenges most of us couldn’t imagine. It gives people an opportunity to admire him – just as I do.

Celina Miller’s Bio

Celina Miller is the mother of Jim, who was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome when he was in the 2nd grade in 2009. Celina has worked tirelessly to gain the education support for her son’s civil right according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Celina has worked with the Oasis Center for Women and Children and has spoken on the importance of supporting children with mental disorders and their families. She has also been active in fundraising and reviewing grants with Autism Speaks in the Birmingham, AL area

(All thoughts above are those of the guest post Author.)


15 Christmas Themed Sensory Activities For Kids

We have one more week of school before the boys are out for Christmas break. Both boys get Occupational Therapy in school to help regulate their bodies so if I don’t have any sort of sensory activities planned for their two weeks off things will be really crazy at our house.

Here are 15 of my favorite Christmas themed sensory activities that I’ve found online. Click on the links to get all of the details so you can recreate the activities yourself!

Christmas Sensory Bin from Sow Sprout Play


Messy Christmas Sensory Play: Demolish A Snowman from Fun At Home With Kids


Peppermint Scented Homemade Finger Paints from Golden Reflections Blog


Jolly Jello Sensory Activity from Growing A Jeweled Rose


Hot Cocoa Sensory Tub


Christmas Present Pasta Dig from Bath Activities For Kids


Christmas Slime from Craftulate


Ten Scents of Christmas Sensory Cards from A Little Learning For Two


Fingerprint Wreath from 3 Dinosaurs


Christmas Colored Gel Sensory Bags from The Preschool Toolbox


Christmas Sensory Bin from Frogs, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails


 Candy Cane Foam


Christmas Sensory Table


Christmas I Spy Bottle from Play and Learn With Dana


DIY Holiday Touch & Feel Box from B-Inspired Mama

Ability Path’s Holiday Gift Guide For Children With Special Needs

I’m excited to share the 2012 Holiday Gift Guide For Children With Special Needs put together by Ability Path. The guide features gift ideas from many bloggers, including a suggestion from me. If you have a child with Special Needs on your “to buy for” list you have to check this guide out.

You can find the Holiday Gift Guide here. Enjoy! :)


Something To Think About This Halloween….

Last year on Halloween this was passed around on Facebook and I thought it was really great so I wanted to share it with you all this Halloween:

Tonight a lot of creatures will visit your door.

Be open minded.

The child who is grabbing more than one piece of candy might have poor fine motor skills.

The child who takes forever to pick out one piece of candy might have motor planning issues.

The child who does not say trick or treat or thank you might be shy or non-verbal.

The child who looks disappointed when he sees your bowl might have an allergy.

The child who isn’t wearing a costume at all might have SPD or autism.

Be nice.

Be patient.

Its everyone’s Halloween.

Sensory Friendly Films At AMC Theatres

AMC Theatres offers sensory friendly movies once or twice a month at many of their theaters across the nation. I’ve written about this program before but wanted to share the newest movies being offered. Here are the movies they plan on showing from now through the end of the summer:

May 5 – Pirates! Band of Misfits

June 16 – Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

June 30 – Brave

July 21 – Ice Age: Continental Drift

August 11 – Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days


*More details can be found here*

Valentine’s Day Sensory Table

My children have sensory processing issues that make sensory table a must have item in our home but I think sensory activities are a great activity for all young children. I like to create themed ones around Holidays or certain things that interest my children. Our latest table is Valentine’s themed.



A close up of the items that are in the table


Items in the table:

-mini themed erasers

-mini spiked balls

-clear decorative stones

-red heart shaped stones

-white feathers

-white pom poms

-red,white, pink shaped heart beads

-white yarn tied in bows

-pieces of white ball garland cut into smaller strands

-small heart shaped containers with lids

-heart shaped bowls

-Valentine’s themed cups

Cyber Monday Deal: 40% Off Soft Clothing {Perfect For Children With Sensory Issues}

{Thought I’d share this for all the parents of children who have sensory issues, like mine do}

HAPPY CYBER MONDAY! Soft Clothing is having an incredible sale event on their website:

40% off storewide until MIDNIGHT tonight!

Use code at checkout: cybermonsoft.

Learning About Sensory Processing Disorder {Saturday Stumbles}

October is Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month so before the month is over I wanted to share a few resources for people to learn more about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Even if your child doesn’t have sensory issues you might know someone who does and will probably come into contact with at least one person who does so I thought these resources and stories would be great to share:

*What is SPD???? The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation has a quick overview here.

*I get asked often about my children’s behavior. It’s hard because I am still learning what actions are behavior related and what actions are sensory related. It’s hard to tell because they are similar. This post explains it.

*That child you *think* is throwing a tantrum in the store may just be having a meltdown because they are on sensory overload. Read this before you head out shopping this Holiday season. This story of adults laughing at a child is heartbreaking…. Don’t Laugh At Me

*Are you a friend to a mother of a child with SPD? Want to know what you can do? Find out in this post.

*I love the poem at the end of this post about embracing SPD.

*Learn about SPD through this parody of If You Give A Pig A Pancake- If You Give A SPD Kid A Pancake

*Did you know there are EIGHT senses? Find out what they are here.

Find out more about SPD from the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation


If you have written anything you’d like to share please add it to the comments below! :)

Occupational Therapy Fun {Wordless Wednesday}

Both boys get occupational therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder. I wanted to share pictures of Luke’s last therapy session and the activities that he does during it:

Sitting on a bouncy ball putting pegs on a pegboard

Sitting in a chair pulling small objects out of theraputty

Swings on a platform swing and plays with weighted frogs (in green bin)

Practicing eating with a spoon while wearing a Spio suit (which he wears for the whole hour session)

Playing with shaving cream on a tray

(Disclaimer: I am not a therapist or a Doctor. I’m just sharing what Lucas does during his therapy sessions. Please consult your child’s therapist or Doctor before doing any of these activities with your child. If you are a parent of a child who has Sensory Processing Disorder please contact me (email in sidebar) if you would like someone to talk to.)

I have linked this post to: Wordless Wednesday Home

5 Minutes for Mom ~ Go Graham Go! ~ Jolly Mom

Mom of 3 Girls ~MomStart ~ Two of a Kind…

Momma Findings ~ Mom Knows It All

A Daily Dose of Toni

The Divine Miss Mommy

Grammy Mouse Tails

$250 Sensory Friendly Giveaway

The SPD Blogger Network and Soft Clothing have teamed up to give away over $250 worth of sensory friendly products.

For more details and to enter to win this amazing prize pack please visit the entry page.


(Disclosure: I am part of the SPD Blogger Network but am not affiliated with this giveaway. I’m sharing because I think it’s a great giveaway and receive an extra entry for posting about it.)

Why I Was Happy To Have A Diagnosis

Ever have a conversation with someone and spend most of the time thinking that they look different?  “Hmmm, she looks different today. I wonder if she got her haircut? Or maybe she got it colored? Something is definitely different today.” So at the first chance you have you ask, “did you do something different with your hair today?” and your friend says, “my hair? no. I got new glasses though.” and suddenly it all makes sense. Yes, those are new glasses. The rest of the conversation flows easily and you no longer have a nagging feeling that something is “different” but you just can’t put your finger on it.

That was me. Only it wasn’t my friend… it was my son. And it wasn’t just a nagging suspicion during a conversation… it was an overwhelming fear in most of my daily interactions with him. I began to notice something was “different” when at two and a half Jacob still didn’t have age appropriate play skills, got overly excited when around other children, had a hard time with other children’s personal space, still mouthed many things, spun in circles, walked on his tippy toes, never seemed to pause for very long, chewed on his clothes and had a variety of other “odd” behavior. The big red flag came when he started getting excluded by his peers. When older toddlers and preschoolers were noticing that he didn’t interact the same way other children their age did and didn’t want him playing with them or sitting next to them. That hurt. I didn’t want him to go through life being awkward in social situations.

So I called Early Intervention. When it came time for the initial consult the woman from EI mentioned that maybe Jacob had Sensory Processing Disorder. I had heard of that but from what I knew about SPD it was people that didn’t like loud noises, strong smells, and things like that. People that avoided sensory experiences. That was NOT my son.

He was evaluated by therapists and we were told that was, in fact, what he had. Then I learned about the other end of Sensory Processing Disorder- the sensory seeker. It all made sense. THAT WAS MY SON. Suddenly his crashing, and chewing on things, and throwing toys, and all the other things that he did that just made him look like a BAD kid and made me look like a BAD mom…. now I knew there was an underlying reason for that behavior.

I was happy for a diagnosis because now I know what is “different” with him. Now I can get him the help he needs. Now I can adjust how I parent. Now we can move forward.

Things I Love Thursday: Our New Trampoline

My boys were recently diagnosed with  Sensory Processing Disorder and I was told they would need Occupational Therapy (among other services). When I was told that OT would be hard to find I took matters into my own hands and researched what items were recommended for sensory seekers. I made a list and shared it with my family and was excited when I got a package in the mail about a week later. My sister-in-law, Jennifer, had bought the boys a trampoline (this one). I was so happy because this would give them an appropriate way to get the movement  they crave.

Thanks so much, Auntie Jennifer! :)

Do you have a child with SPD? What “tools” have you bought or made to help your child? Though every child is different, I’d love to hear what works for your family!

This post is being linked up to The Diaper Diaries: Things I Love Thursday.

(Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. This trampoline was purchased, not given to us by the company.)