Helping Children with Special Sensory Needs

January 30, 2015


Wondering if you have a sensory sensitive child? Sensory sensitivities come in two basic varieties; hyper-sensitivity and under-sensitivity. These sensitivities need to be properly understood in order for us as parents to help our children.

Understanding the sensitivities

Hyper-sensitivity. Hyper-sensitivities are often easier to spot. Textures, flavors, sounds and movement may upset the child or trigger an outburst. Itchy clothing, noisy rooms, or constant movement are common triggers. Fortunately, it’s possible to help your child learn to cope with their sensitivities, and in some cases overcome them, by introducing more fun and games into their lives.

Under-sensitivity. Under-sensitivities are all too often seen as misbehavior. For example, a child that is under-sensitive to movement may need to fidget, run or bounce more often. A child that is under-sensitive to sound may talk and sing loudly at inappropriate times.

It’s important to understand that your child is not misbehaving, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with unacceptable behavior or a miserable child.

Sometimes a child is hyper-sensitive in one area while in another area the child is under-sensitive, and this may require the guidance of a professional. There are some solutions, though, that you can begin to implement at home.

What are people games?

People games, as the name implies, don’t use toys or props, so they cut down on the distractions during play. Instead, people are the only tools needed to play these games. Chances are you are familiar with some people games from your own childhood, including:

  • Tickling
  • Hide and Seek
  • Tag
  • Red Rover

Baby and toddler interaction games are also peoples’ games, such as peekaboo, Itsy Bitsy spider, and finger games.

For a child with sensitivities, people games are more than just a way to expend energy and have fun. These games have basic, easy-to-follow rules and well defined expectations. They encourage healthy interaction between your child and others, while also providing your child with a healthy outlet for their sensory preferences.

Teach through play

It’s important to match the people game with the child. A child that is sensitive to movement may prefer the slow movement of a finger game, or the soothing movement of rocking back and forth to a softly-sung tune. A child that craves movement may prefer active games, such as hide and seek or simply spinning around in a circle.

You can make up your own game to fit the specific needs of your family and child. As the games evolve, begin working in teaching moments so you can model healthy coping skills. For example, if your child is under-sensitive to touch and has begun hitting, a clapping game can give them a healthier outlet for their need to hit.

By utilizing an early intervention services, like Kutest Kids Early Intervention, before the child reaches school age, you can work with a therapist to develop people games that will help your child cope with the sights, sounds, flavors and textures of school. Your child will already be equipped to deal with situations that trigger their sensitivities.


Kutest Kids ImageFay D. Wallis is operations manager at Kutest Kids Early Intervention Agency, an all-inclusive therapy center in Philadelphia, PA. She holds a Master’s degree in clinical psychology and has worked within a variety of populations and environments. She brings more than 10 years of experience and expertise in the management of nonprofit and private entities. Prior to that, she had worked many years in Philadelphia as a licensed therapist. She’s very passionate about helping each child reach his/her fullest potential and making a difference in the community.