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Raising a Child with Sensory Needs: A Neuro-Affirming Approach

Raising a child with sensory needs is a unique journey that requires a different approach from standard parenting techniques. It’s not about following the parenting strategies we grew up with, or the ones we see in parent groups or on social media. Instead, it’s about understanding your child’s unique needs and using a neuro-affirming approach to support them. This blog post will explore how to create unique strategies for your child, using sensory processing support, sensory diets, models for emotional intelligence and interoception, products and environmental adaptations, and self-care for parents.


Understanding Sensory Processing

Sensory processing is real, and it’s a crucial part of how your child experiences the world. Children with sensory processing difficulties may be over-responsive or under-responsive to sensory stimuli, leading to challenges in their daily life. However, with the right support, sensory processing can be harnessed to bring out your child’s strengths. Understanding your child’s sensory needs and responses can help you create strategies that work for them, rather than trying to fit them into standard parenting techniques.


Implementing Sensory Diets

A sensory diet is a set of activities that are specifically designed to meet your child’s sensory needs. These activities can be incorporated into your child’s daily routine to help them stay regulated and engaged. A sensory diet is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a personalised plan that takes into account your child’s unique sensory profile. It may include activities that provide the right amount of sensory input, such as deep pressure activities for a child who seeks proprioceptive input, or quiet, calming activities for a child who is easily overwhelmed by sensory stimuli.


Building Emotional Intelligence and Interoception

Models can provide a structured and visual way to build your child’s emotional intelligence and interoception. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to understand and manage emotions, while interoception is the sense of understanding and feeling what’s happening inside our bodies. By teaching your child to recognise and name their emotions, and to understand the physical sensations associated with these emotions, you can help them develop better self-regulation skills. Visual aids, such as emotion charts or body maps, can be particularly helpful for children who struggle with verbal communication.


Using Products and Environmental Adaptations

Products and environmental adaptations can provide quick wins to aid task engagement and emotional regulation. This could include sensory toys that provide the right kind of sensory input, or adaptations to your child’s environment to reduce sensory overload, such as dimming the lights for a child who is sensitive to bright light, or using noise-cancelling headphones for a child who is overwhelmed by noise. Remember, what works for one child may not work for another, so it’s important to choose products and adaptations that suit your child’s specific needs.


Supporting Your Own Sensory and Emotional Needs

Raising a child with sensory needs can be challenging, and it’s important to remember to take care of yourself too. Be kind to yourself, and make sure to support your own sensory and emotional needs. This could involve taking time for yourself, seeking support from others, or engaging in activities that help you relax and recharge. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so taking care of your own wellbeing is not just beneficial for you, but also for your child.


Conclusion: The Learning Never Ends

Raising a child with sensory needs is a journey of continuous learning. As your child grows and their needs change, you’ll need to adapt and create new strategies. But with a neuro-affirming approach, a good understanding of sensory processing, and the right tools and strategies, you can support your child in a way that brings out their strengths and helps them thrive. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey, and there are many resources and support networks available to help you along the way.

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