Sensory Issues in Babies & Toddlers
Sensory Issues in Babies and Toddlers
Children can exhibit signs of sensory processing disorder at birth; for example, it’s common for a baby with sensory issues to be a “bad latch” breastfeeding because he can’t coordinate the sensations in his mouth properly to be able to nurse effectively. A baby with sensory issues may also be very fussy about how she is held, have sensitivities to touch, bright lights, and everyday sensations, and may resist transitions such as clothing and diaper changes.
Sensory processing issues are common in children adopted from foreign orphanages, babies born prematurely, and babies who have had many medical issues and procedures. However, even a child whose birth circumstances were quite typical may have sensory processing disorder (SPD).
Because sensory issues commonly appear with developmental delays, be sure that your child who has sensory issues is evaluated using one of the simple diagnostic tools the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to pediatricians: the PEDS (Parents’ Evaluation of Developmental Status), the Child Development Inventories, or the Ages and Stages Questionnaires. Children’s brains are most easily retrained in the years between birth and age five, so if you have any concerns, please don’t delay. You can also request a free early intervention evaluation through your state’s early intervention program for children ages 0 to 3. All states have them and provide free or low-cost therapy for children with developmental delays. You can do a search for your state’s name and the term “early intervention” or check the listing on the website for the book Raising a Sensory Smart Child.
Click Below for more information on sensory specific age groups
Quick Tips for Babies & Toddlers
Unlike kids who are simply picky eaters, children with sensory issues can have extreme reactions to food and be so anxious about eating items that feel, taste, smell, or look repulsive that they’ll go without food rather than eat an offending item. Offer simple, healthy choices and pay close attention to the textures, smells, and sights the child can tolerate.
Here are some sensory smart tips for picky eaters with sensory issues:
If the child will tolerate a food with a particular texture and shape (such as chewy, small, and round like peas or corn kernels), work on introducing new foods that have the same texture and shape. If the child refuses mixed textured foods, which is very common, keep textures simple: plain yogurt instead of yogurt with fruit, thoroughly smooth refried beans, mashed potatoes that have no lumps, etc.
Serve a very small portion and do it often. Don’t insist on “just one bite” until the child can tolerate the smell and site of the food on the plate, and the sensation of touching it with her finger, then to her lips or tongue. Be patient and keep trying.
Kids with sensory issues can often discern hidden ingredients in sauces. If you have no luck sneaking vegetables into a sauce she’ll eat, try serving vegetables and fruits cut into pieces, with seeds removed if necessary.
If your child severely self-limits her diets, especially if she limits to foods with gluten (wheat and other grains) or casein (a protein found in milk and milk products), she may have a gluten intolerance and/or a casein intolerance. Learn more about the GFCF (gluten-free, casein-free diet) here.
There are many potty training tips out there, but here are some that parents of kids with sensory issues have shared are especially helpful:
Teach your child the feeling of wet vs. dry in the bathtub and whenever else you have the opportunity. Some children have difficulty potty training because they can’t identify the wet sensation.
The tightness of close-fitting underpants or Pull-ups® diapers can cause a confusing sensation that distracts the child from the feeling of having to “go.” Try using boxer shorts or letting the child walk around with an uncovered bottom while you’re training.
Provide a footstool as well as a training ring that fits inside a larger toilet seat so that the child feels stable on the seat and her/his feet aren’t dangling. This provides a sense of security that relieves some of the anxiety over using a toilet.
Place toilet paper in the bowl before he or she goes to absorb some of the sound of splashing, which a child with auditory issues may find distressing.