I began my work in Hawaii as an occupational therapist over 13 years ago. One of the first boys I worked with only ate 4 foods because that’s all that felt good in his mouth! Then I met the highly active little boy who was jumping off whatever surface he could find. I soon began to visit a sensitive, anxious girl who would silently watch from the sidelines but once in the safety of her home, became a robust player. Additionally, there was a clumsy girl who just plain avoided any physical challenges.
Do any of these children remind you of someone you know? They were all wonderful children with sensory processing differences. They were either getting too much sensory information and were overwhelmed (the anxious girl), not enough sensory information (the clumsy girl) or couldn’t get enough and sought out more (the active boy)! These are kids that often possess talents that their peers don’t have (such as noticing small details, great memory, and fearlessness) but seem to have out of proportion reactions to seemingly small things. Sensory Kids typically present with just one or a combination of these 3 characteristics: over sensitivity (to sounds, touch, sights, smells), under sensitivity (clumsy with refined motor movements) and sensory seeking behavior (jumping, swinging, spinning, touching, chewing or just being on the move!). These Sensory Kids are often bright and have tremendous gifts and so their challenging behavior doesn’t make sense; furthermore, traditional methods of discipline just don’t work. These are kids that need a whole different approach to parenting- nurturing, consistency, opportunity to ‘get their wiggles out’, pre-planning and a feeling of CONTROL (not full control but some control).
Every child’s sensory processing is different and as such every child’s needs are individual. As I worked with Hawaii families in their homes, I quickly realized just how much sensory processing differences impacted these families on a day to day basis in a way that few understand. Managing around sensitivities, anxiety, clumsiness or very active behavior was an around-the-clock endeavor for parents, and often created conflict within families as to how to address these challenges. I observed parents vacillate between tough love and nurturing while extended family and friends gave lots of unsolicited advice that simply wasn’t effective for the sensory child. These experiences profoundly shaped my work with families. Now, I have a clinic space with a wide range of specialized sensory equipment to address the specific sensory profile of each child. In addition, I have expanded my focus to address not just the child’s sensory processing but also how to help parents understand their child’s behavior and how to build their child’s coping skills. You definitely won’t see parents sitting in the waiting room! Now our assessment and intervention have robust parent involvement with a focus on parenting our sensational sensory kids! Every day I feel privileged to work with very invested parents from all over Hawaii who are facilitating success for their children! For more information please visit our website at www.MauiChildDevelopment.com or call us at (808)873-7700.
Image Credit: Maui Center for Child Development