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Supporting Sensory Needs to Enhance Your Child's Emotional Regulation

After reading this article, you will:

  1. Understand the relationship between supporting your child's sensory needs and their emotional regulation.

  2. Explore the role of the proprioceptive and vestibular systems in sensory processing.

  3. Discover the concept of "heavy work" and how it can regulate the nervous system.

  4. Learn about the Whole Body Activities in The Galaxy Guide to Running My Rocket that cater to sensory needs and support emotional regulation.

  5. Gain practical strategies for incorporating sensory activities into your child's daily routine and creating sensory-friendly environments.

In this article, we will explore the vital connection between supporting your child's sensory needs and promoting their emotional regulation. Occupational therapists often view behaviour through a "sensory lens," recognising how sensory processing affects a child's ability to regulate their emotions. Beyond the five well-known sensory systems, such as touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing, we will delve into the importance of the proprioceptive and vestibular systems in sensory processing. Additionally, we will discuss the concept of "heavy work" and how activities in The Galaxy Guide to Running My Rocket, known as The Charging Challenges, cater to sensory needs and provide valuable support for emotional regulation.

Occupational Therapy and The Sensory Lens

Occupational therapists approach behaviour through a "sensory lens," acknowledging that the body's ability to process and respond to sensory information from the environment significantly impacts a child's emotional regulation. In addition to the well-known sensory systems, three additional sensory systems play crucial roles: interoception, proprioception, and vestibular processing (Lane et al., 2019). The proprioceptive system provides information about the body's position in relation to the environment and the effort required to move the body, while the vestibular system informs us about movement, including speed, direction, and position Dunn, 2001). Many children often experience heightened emotions accompanied by increased energy levels, such as anger, frustration, or excitement. (Schaaf & Mailloux, 2015). Recognising the impact of sensory processing, we understand that a combination of movement and proprioceptive input, also known as "heavy work," can be highly regulating for the nervous system (Lane et al., 2019). The Galaxy Guide to Running My Rocket incorporates activities called The Charging Challenges, specifically designed to meet sensory needs and promote emotional regulation. This includes a category of Whole Body Activities that aim to provide increased amounts of "heavy work" by combining vestibular and proprioceptive input. By engaging in these activities, children receive sensory information that assists in regulating their nervous system and adjusting their arousal levels as needed.

What is "Heavy Work" and how can this help my child's big emotions?

"Heavy work" refers to activities involving deep pressure, resistance, or effortful movements. These activities provide sensory input that can either calm or energise the nervous system, depending on the child's individual needs (Smith & Mancil, 2010). Examples of "heavy work" include pushing or pulling heavy objects, climbing, jumping, or engaging in rough-and-tumble play. The sensory input received through these activities helps children achieve an optimal state of alertness, enabling them to better regulate their emotions (Lane et al., 2019).

How to utilise Whole Body Activities?

The Whole Body Activities in The Galaxy Guide provide children with opportunities to engage in sensory-rich experiences. These activities involve movement, balance, and coordination, stimulating the proprioceptive and vestibular systems. In The Galaxy Guide to Running My Rocket, the Charging Challenges section introduces a category of activities known as Whole Body Activities. These activities incorporate sensory input to help regulate and calm your child's nervous system. By participating in activities, children receive sensory input that supports their emotional regulation. These activities foster body awareness, self-regulation, and provide a positive outlet for channeling emotions.

Incorporating sensory activities into daily routines and creating sensory-friendly environments can further enhance emotional regulation. Providing access to sensory tools like fidget toys, weighted blankets, or sensory bins can offer additional support. However, it is important that your child's sensory strategies are recommended by an Occupational Therapist, to ensure that the correct sensory system is targeted when suggesting pieces of equipment or activities. Supporting your child's sensory needs is a valuable approach to enhancing their emotional regulation. By understanding the proprioceptive and vestibular systems and the impact of sensory processing, parents and caregivers can incorporate activities that provide the necessary sensory input for regulation. The Whole Body Activities in The Galaxy Guide to Running My Rocket offer a range of opportunities for children to engage in "heavy work" and sensory-rich experiences. By addressing sensory needs and preferences, creating sensory-friendly environments, and integrating sensory activities into daily routines, we empower children to better regulate their emotions and thrive in their daily lives.

References: Dunn, W. (2001). The sensations of everyday life: Empirical, theoretical, and pragmatic considerations. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55(6), 608-620. Lane, S. J., Reynolds, S., & Dumenci, L. (2019). Sensory over-responsivity and emotional regulation in children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49(3), 1101-1113. Schaaf, R. C., & Mailloux, Z. (2015). Clinician's Guide for Implementing Ayres Sensory Integration®: Promoting Participation for Children With Autism. Western Psychological Services. Smith, J. A., & Mancil, G. R. (2010). Sensory processing in children with autism spectrum disorders and developmental disabilities. Journal of Early Intervention, 32(4), 286-297.


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