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Sensory Integration Disorder and Social Skills

In this interview, Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske the authors of Raising a Sensory Smart Child, discuss social skills you can teach your child with sensory integration disorder.

How can parents of children with sensory integration disorder help their children with social skills?

The first thing a parent can do for a child with sensory integration disorder and social skills issues is to acquire sensory smarts. Life is a sensory event, and there will often be times when the sensory input we take for granted will greatly affect their child's social skills and social behavior. Respect your child's sensory integration needs and teach him how he can meet his sensory needs in a acceptable, safe manner in social settings.

The second most important thing a parent can do is teach your child sensory smarts. Kids need to know that they have to be a little creative and find ways to meet their sensory integration needs without breaking the important rules of social interaction. A child with a strong sense of self can much better navigate social settings.

Why are social skills important for children with sensory integration disorder?

Social skills rules are an important subject to discuss with your child, as they will face many sensory integration challenges in social settings. For example in a social setting, if he needs to stimulate his mouth before eating, is it okay for him to stuff paper napkins in it? Is it okay when he's four, but not when he's eight? Is it okay at home, but not at someone else's house, or in a restaurant? What are the social consequences of his behaviors? If his friends are going to ridicule him, are they friends he wants to be around? Are there other, more socially acceptable ways to get his needs met?

What social skills can you teach your child with sensory integration disorder?

Social skills you can teach your chid with sensory integration disorder include:

  • Teach children to respect their needs, but also the needs of others.
  • Encourage them to be creative in finding ways to make social settings more comfortable for themselves without making them less comfortable for others.
  • Encourage them to talk to you, and to other important people, about their choices. Maybe your child can explain to grandma why he chose to wear black sweatpants and a nice shirt to a holiday gathering instead of scratchy khakis with seams.
  • Help your child feel good about herself by pointing out her wonderful qualities, and explaining that sensory integration issues are simply a physiological challenge she has to deal with.

Use your sensory smarts to encourage your child to engage in sensory diet activities he finds calming and focusing. Doing shuffle races, marching in place, doing chair pushups or pushups against the wall, and carrying heavy objects are all activities that stimulate the joints, providing proprioceptive input that many kids find calming. Let your child wear comfortable clothing, and use earplugs, fidgets, and other devices to help them get calm and focused.

Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske's book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child provide practical solutions for everyday social problems as well as sensory diet activities that will help your child with sensory issues.

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