Sensory What?

Sensory Dysfunction Disorder is the inability to process sensory stimuli/data effectively. Think about how our nervous system is flooded with sensory input via the following senses:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Olfactory (smell)
  • Tactile (touch)
  • Gustatory (taste)
  • Vestibular (sense of balance)
  • Proprioceptive (sense of body space)

So, what happens when our systems are either not integrated or function at a hypo or hyper level? Think of the children in your Sunday school programs, VBS, or Awanas. What about the child who craves jumping, crashing into things…the risk takers? What about the child who is clumsy and can’t find the coordination to throw a ball, do a puzzle, or has a fear of walking down stairs? Or how about the child who covers his/her ears during worship time or when a toilet flushes? Or the child who will only eat food that is a particular color or texture? Well, perhaps each of these children may have a sensory processing condition known as SDD (Sensory Dysfunction Disorder).

As children’s ministry workers and church leaders, how can we assist by creating environments that are sensory rich? For a child who is hyper-sensitive, meaning has acute sensitivity and appears to over-react, that child is a “sensory hightailer” and needs less sensory input. For a child who is hypo-sensitive, he/she needs more sensation to register; that child is a sensory seeker craving more. Listed below are activities for less or more input.

Sensory Activities for Additional Input:

  • Mini trampoline
  • Therapy ball, seated disk
  • Gross motor play/movement
  • Sensory bins, tactile toys, fidget busters
  • Outside play, playground/gym time

 Sensory Activities to Delay or Calm:

  • Tent
  • Rocking chair/swing
  • Fish tank
  • Bubble tube
  • Headphones
  • Soft music
  • Stress-reducing techniques (deep breathing, visualization)

The term sensory diet was coined by Patricia Wilbarger, OT. Just as we each need a balanced food/meal plan throughout the day, each of us also needs a variety of sensory input that provides input to help us stay focused, alert, calm, and safe.

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