In addition to the organizing supports I help to put in place for many sensory families I work with (mine included!), I am very often questioned about parenting.  Almost every sensory family I know comes up against a friend or family member who questions their parenting.  Statements like “he just needs more discipline”,  “you need to be tougher on her”, or “we never had these problems when we were raising our kids” are a few example of what sensory parents might hear on occasion.  On some level, there is no explaining to parents who have neuro-typical kids – they have no map for what it is like to raise a sensory child just like you have no map for their experience of raising their children – the old apples to oranges comparison.

I, however, have boiled down my parenting advice to my #1 Sensory Parenting Rule:

Sensory Parenting is about Proactive Parenting vs. Reactive Parenting  – this means that most of your parenting muscle is flexed before an experience in the preparation, visual aids, and social skill training that sets up your rigid, anxious, or distracted child to be successful.

Here’s why Proactive Parenting works for “sensory” kids:

Supports the Inherent Challenges:

Many sensory kids have challenges with generalization – this is the ability to take what they have learned from one experience and apply it to the next, similar experience.  Proactive Parenting allows you to generalize each experience for them.

Allows You to Set the Stage:

Many sensory kids have executive functioning challenges – which is the ability to make a plan of attack when trying to get something accomplished.  Almost every situation – social or academic – is infinitely more difficult when you can’t make a plan. Proactive parenting allows you to give your sensory child a plan of attack, a map of what might happen, and rules of how to handle different situations.  These are all tools that will help them navigate the scenarios that might unfold.

Here’s why Reactive Parenting Does NOT work for sensory kids:

Emotionally Overwhelmed = Shut Down

When a situation goes wrong and your sensory child is emotionally overwhelmed, they are past the point of learning.  They are hyper-focused on one person or one thing that didn’t go their way, and frequently are in a place of extreme negativity about themselves.  In other words, the teaching opportunity is gone. The best way to handle your child at this point is to remove them from the situation and work to get them to a calm, connected place again.  You will have an opportunity to revisit this experience with them when you are preparing them for the next, similar experience.

Stop comparing apples to oranges and start to embrace the role of proactive parenting for your sensory child. Here’s to simple solutions for more peaceful days!   ❤❤❤