Discipline for a Child with Sensory Integration Disorder

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Children with sensory integration disorder often feel emotions more intensely. They also feel sensations at a heightened level. These children tend to become upset over issues that would not upset a typically developing child. Because of this, it is important for caregivers to know how discipline for a child with sensory integration disorder works. The key to discipline is to know the child well through education and observation.

Understanding Behavior

  • Children with sensory integration disorder have a problem processing different stimuli in their brains. What may feel like a light touch to one person may feel like a slap to a child with sensory integration disorder. Because of this, many kids with sensory integration disorder act out strongly against things that would not upset a typically developing child.

    Children with sensory issues may also seek stimuli. They may enjoy lifting heavy objects, jumping, stomping or rolling on the ground. Children may do these things at inappropriate times in an effort to organize their bodies or calm down.

    Look at these behaviors through the eyes of the child with sensory integration disorder. This will help parents and caregivers find the best ways to deal with inappropriate behaviors, such as tantrums, yelling and aggressive actions.

Environment

  • Pay special attention to the child's environment. Bright colors, loud noises and lighting can disrupt a child with sensory integration disorder and lead to a higher incidence of acting out and poor behavior. By removing stimuli that upsets the child, caregivers are helping to set the stage for improved behavior.

    Keep a journal that records behaviors. Note time, environment and what the behavior was. Positive behavior should be recorded as well. After keeping this journal, begin setting up the environment for success each day. Keep in mind the need for food and rest as part of the overall environment. Keep activities on hand that the child will enjoy. Allow time and space for the child to engage in behaviors like jumping, rolling or other activities that assist in organizing the body and brain.

Redirection and Communication

  • When children act out, or display inappropriate or undesirable behavior, there are three key things that parents can do to address the situation.

    Begin by acknowledging the unwanted behavior. Tell the child what she did and why it was unacceptable. Do not use emotional language, simply state the facts. Next, give the child the appropriate way to deal with the issue. For example, if the child took a toy, he would need to be told that asking for the toy is appropriate. Last, communicate with the child what the consequence is for the action. "Choosing to take toys means you choose to play by yourself." Help the child move to the new activity or have a quiet time to calm down. This should all be done in a calm, clear manner that is free of emotions. The child with sensory integration disorder often responds to heightened emotions with even higher emotions of his own. Be calm, clear and follow through every time.

References

  • The Out-of-Sync Child; Carol Stock Kranowitz; 2005
  • Sensory Integration and the Child; A. Jean Ayres; 1979
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