As a child develops, so does its sensory system, allowing them to react to the world and the people in it. Most children are able to comprehend sight, sound, touch, and smell and process them in a way that works seamlessly together. Some children though, experience problems with sensory integration and have adverse effects to these same sensory signals.
For infants experiencing delays in sensory integration, sounds can be overwhelming and touch can put them in a panic. Everything that goes on around them is amplified and can create an uncomfortable situation for them.
Every child is wired differently and problems with a premature sensory system are often caused by how the brain and nervous system work together. Sensory issues most often show up in children that were born prematurely or have spent a large deal of time in a hospital after birth. This can also present itself in children that have been born with autism, attention deficit disorders, Down Syndrome, anxiety, and depression.
Symptoms Of Delay In Sensory Integration In Children
If your child is experiencing a delay in sensory integration you may notice some of the following symptoms in their behavior:
- Sensitivity to touch: They are bothered by the slightest of touch or don’t enjoy being held.
- Sensitivity to sound: Noises bother them even if it is a background noise that is not readily apparent.
- Clothing sensitivity: Tags or certain fabrics create discomfort.
- Moves excessively: Bounces, swings or moves excessively in a nervous or uncomfortable way.
- Avoids child-friendly foods: Dislikes foods that most children gravitate towards.
- Poor attention: Can’t focus. May tune out or act up as a response mechanism.
- High or low pain tolerance: Doesn’t seem to feel pain that would normally make a child cry or feels pain at levels that shouldn’t bother them.
Symptoms of Delay In Sensory Integration In Infants
Babies also experience sensory overload and can also have sensory integration issues. As a parent, you must be alert to the cues that your baby is being overwhelmed and stressed. Knowing the signs to look for in a baby can help reduce the strain on their premature sensory systems when they are being overloaded.
A baby will often display these behaviors when their sensory system is being overworked and they are uncomfortable with the situation at hand.
- Increased heart rate.
- Increased breathing rate.
- Changes in skin color.
- Onset of hiccups or yawning.
- Arching of the back.
- Fussing and crying.
- A complete shutdown.
How To Reduce Sensory Overload With Your Infant?
As a parent, you want to do everything you can to calm your baby when they are in distress. When your baby has a premature sensory system, it may seem that no matter what you do you are making the situation worse. Your baby isn’t able to tell you what is wrong so you must respond by doing everything you can to reduce the stimulation around them.
Some ways you can help to eliminate the stress that they are undergoing from over stimulation can include:
- Touch: While you may feel the natural ability to gently calm your baby by holding them lightly when in actuality they need a firm touch to feel secure. Try holding them with your full hand and using a swaddling to make them feel protected. This can work to calm them and make them relax. You can also try light massage as this also works to distress the situation and soothe your baby.
- Smell: Your baby may respond to your personal smell as a way to calm their senses. They may feel reassured by the smells of their mother and feel secure when clothing that smells like you is nearby. Avoid excessive smells from perfume or shampoo as this can cause your baby’s premature sensory system to overload and they will become agitated.
- Sound: Any noise can set your baby off and make them feel stressed. Even a simple noise as the running of appliances can affect how your baby feels and reacts. Try using noise dampening materials in the room where they sleep to reduce some of the background noises that are affecting them. When your baby becomes distressed because of noises, reduce them as best you can to give your baby some relief.
- Sight: When you are going to calm your baby, reduce all the light stimulation around them. Try dimming the lights and turning off background lights from the televisions so your child is able to fall asleep. A healthy sleep habit can improve the sensory integration in babies allow them to be more comfortable around stimuli. It is also a good idea to mute the room of your baby by removing any objects or decorations that are would cause over stimulation.
- Feeding: As you feed your baby, it is important to allow them to focus on the task at hand. They may find that your talking, singing or movement is distracting. Allow them to eat in quiet and resume interacting with them once they have completed feeding as this will give them the opportunity to develop their premature sensory system.
- Temperature: Keep your baby comfortable can also make them feel at ease. Be sure to keep your home between 68 and 72 degrees for optimal warm and dress your baby in layers to protect them from drafts. Keep them away from fans and be sure include a hat to keep their head warm. Swaddling is a good option as long as you keep their hands free to move and interact with them
As your baby or child develops a premature sensory system, you can help them overcome some of the issues associated with their sensory overload by limiting the amount of stimulation that they come in contact with. Early Developmental Therapy Consultants can assist you with identifying the triggers for your child and work with you to soothe them during this stressful period. Contact Early Developmental Therapy Consultants to set up an evaluation of your child to determine their needs with the development of their sensory integration.