17 Dec 7 Tips for a Sensory Sensitive Summer
Summer is nearly here. And with that comes days at the beach and the pool, lots of sun and heat and, of course, sticky treats, like ice cream and paddle pops. While a lot of kids (and parents) embrace those things, other children, especially those with sensory sensitivities, may find them a challenge. Add to that the lack of structure and change in routines that are likely to happen, and as a parent of a child with sensory processing disorder, you may be left feeling anxious instead of joyful about this time of year.
But we can give our sensory sensitive kids a great summer and lower our own anxiety levels in the process. Here are seven tips for a sensory sensitive summer.
Tip 1: Keep Active
Physically active children are happy children, so try to keep your children as physically active as possible throughout the summer. For your sensory sensitive child, swimming is an excellent activity. It provides deep pressure, calming and heavy work input, which will feel great for your child.
Trampolining is another great activity. Because jumping involves several motions at once, your child gets the opportunity to exercise moving patterns and work on praxis challenges. Both help improve gross motor coordination, trunk strength and balance.
Tip 2: Beat the Beach
The beach is one of the most tactile places you can take your child. And that can be overwhelming. But don’t let this deter you from a beach day. In fact, the beach can be excellent sensory therapy.
However you do need to be sensitive to your child’s needs, so pack a tent or a cabana, so your child can get out of the sun and wind, as well as sunglasses and a sun hat. Bring a heavy beach blanket that will lay flat and protect your child from too much sand. And bring sand/water shoes for running through the sand or the waves.
If the beach you’re going to doesn’t have a shower, you might want to bring a few bottles of water to pour over itchy skin when you’re leaving and of course, dry clothes to change into.
Tip 3: Beat the Heat
Your child might struggle with the drastic temperature changes that come with the summer weather. This is particularly true if they spend a lot of time in an air conditioned environment. To beat the heat, schedule your outdoor activities for early morning or late afternoon, while during the day, consider indoor activities like drawing, movies or trips to the museum.
You might also want to consider raising the temperature levels at home so there isn’t quite as much of a difference between the indoor and outdoor temps.
Tip 4: Make a Schedule
One of the most difficult things that can happen for a sensory sensitive child over summer is the loss of structure. But you can mimic that in your own home and in your choice of activities, providing them with predictability and lowering everyone’s stress levels.
At home prepare a schedule of events and plans that you have as a family (and stick to it). You may also want to consider activities that have a schedule of their own, such as swimming or art lessons. Make sure to discuss these choices and plans with your child and get their input.
Tip 5: Seek Out Sensory Friendly Events
Many museums, movie theatres and even shopping centres and shows will put on summer events that are specifically designed for kids with sensory processing issues. In the Brisbane area you can find some of these at Visit Brisbane, including events at the Workshops Rail Museum, the Marsden Library and horse riding lessons at EquusTerra.
Just a little bit of research should find you all the information you need on sensory-friendly activities in your area.
Tip 6: Expect the Unexpected (and Prepare for It)
The summer is full of different experiences for your child. Expect the unexpected. And while you can’t prepare for every contingency, you can be prepared as much as possible.
First, help your child make a ‘Feel Good Go Bag’. This will be full of things that help them feel good and safe. It might be earmuffs, fidget toys, a weighted blanket or chewing gum. Make sure that it’s easily accessible whenever your child is in a new or difficult environment.
Second, pull together additional items that might be helpful during summer activities. Consider sunglasses, a sun hat and bug spray (or lightweight pants and long sleeves if your child is sensitive to the smell). You might also want to include a comfortable bathing suit that feels good to wear, protective shoes and even a portable shelter which gives your child a place to retreat if they need one. These are all the things you anticipate could help your child, but that they haven’t already included in their own go bag.
Tip 7: Consider Your Child’s Needs
If you’re like most parents, you’re already well and truly involved in what your child needs. But during summer, these needs could be changing. Think about your child’s specific sensory needs and plan activities and trips that will meet those needs. As always, be sure to encourage, but not force activities that cause anxiety or stress.
Remember that the goal is to help your sensory sensitive child have a great summer. Focus on having fun, learning new skills and doing what’s best for your child and for yourself.