Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

February 20, 2014

Sensory Science

  An infant is crying. What do you do?

            Hold them

            Swing them

            Bounce them

            Swaddle them

            Check the diaper

            Feed them

            Give a pacifier

            Sing to them or make a SHH sound

My gosh, there are so many different things that can be causing the baby to cry and it is all up to the caregiver to figure out what works for the baby. What’s even more frustrating or difficult is that each baby is different; one likes to be in a swing, another likes to be bounced…

A pediatric occupational therapist plays this same game when addressing sensory processing delays. Luckily, they are trained in sensory integration techniques and are able to provide appropriate input based on the actions of the child they are treating.

All of the above options used to calm a crying baby have a sensory component. Swinging, bouncing, and rocking provide vestibular input; swaddling and holding provides deep pressure/proprioceptive input; a pacifier provides oral input; singing or SHH provides auditory input. All of these sensory input options can have a calming effect for babies.

As a child grows and if he is unable to process sensory input appropriately, his body will be out of sorts just like a crying baby. An older child may not show that sensory input is needed through crying but he may exhibit other behaviors such as crashing, constantly putting things in his mouth, or wiggling in his seat at school.

Through a collaborative process, an occupational therapist, the caregiver, and the child can develop a plan to enhance sensory processing. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I go back to the above mentioned techniques when treating older children. Instead of swaddling your 7 year old, I will use a lycra or hammock swing. I use multiple types of swings, slides, and a scooter board to give vestibular input. Jumping on a trampoline, crashing into bean bags, and jumping in the ball pit can provide proprioceptive input. By providing the needed sensory input, your child will be calmer, more organized, and have better attention.

If you have sensory processing concerns for your child, contact Melissa Petcu at 704-332-4834 ext 118.