The Holidays and Sensory Needs

The Holidays and Sensory Needs

Fall is here! This is definitely my favorite season as the leaves start to turn, the air is crisp and warmer clothes begin to emerge from my closet. As we embark on this new season, we are faced with holidays, vacations, family get-togethers and to-do lists beyond measure. This may all be just a walk-in-the-park for some, but for the others--let’s be honest most--of us, this time of the year can cause stress, sensory overload and a need to take a break, take a breath and relax.

I am strong enough to admit that when I was younger, I ran around the house asking my parents a million and one questions about our plans for the holidays: “What/Who should I dress up as? Where are we going? What are we doing? Do I have to eat that? Who’s coming with us? Do I have to go along?”

My advice to parents this season is to take a moment and be aware of your child’s sensory level. We can use 3 terms for this:

Too fast: Anxious, fidgety, decreased focus, increased rate and/or volume of speech and frequent movement/restlessness are just a few behaviors associated with a body that is “too fast”.

Too slow: Lethargic, decreased focus, slow and sluggish movements and lack of motivation can be indicators of a body that is “too slow”.

Just right: Good focus and attention to task, cooperative, calm and controlled behaviors, good ability to follow directions and participate in activities appropriately are some of the delightful signs of a body that is “just right”.

As children begin to look through the costume catalogs, toy catalogs and the cookie catalogs (my personal favorite), sensory overload can begin to take hold. With the many limitations and expectations placed on children and even caregivers during this time, it is important to be aware of sensory needs. When experiencing a body that is “too fast”, try to participate in activities that require heavy work and/or deep pressure such as: climbing a jungle gym, giving yourself a big hug, deep breathing, wall push-ups, doing the crab walk or army crawl or wrapping up in a tight blanket. Heavy work involving muscles and joints is always great and aides in bringing a body from “too fast” OR “too slow” to “just right”.

When you notice your child has a body that is “too slow”, try activities such as: swinging, rolling down a hill, riding a scooter or a bike, participating in a music and movement activity, playing catch or jumping on a trampoline. These activities help “rev” up the system and are most beneficial when followed by heavy work or deep pressure to reach a body that is “just right”, as it can be over-alerting to complete motion activities with too great a speed or duration.  

Please remember that each child is unique; what works for one child may not work for another. A certain sensory activity may work to help regulate the body one day, but not the next. Take things one day at a time, learn and grow. I have been using children as my primary example throughout this blog, but these techniques can also be used with adults! Be self-aware, because the person who knows your body best is you! Take a look at your To-Do List and after crossing off a task, take a short break and do something for YOU. Motivate yourself to complete an activity to receive a reward, be it a snack, a delicious cup of coffee or a favorite TV show.

Again, my best wishes to you throughout this lovely season. May you enjoy your time with family and friends and take joy in the little things, as it is the littlest things that sometimes make the largest impact.

On the journey,




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