Tips and Tricks for Summer with kids who have Sensory Processing difficulties

For many kids summertime is full of exciting experiences from the sand on the beach to the fireworks on the fourth of July however certain summertime experiences can be challenging for kids with sensory processing difficulties. A messy ice cream cone, a loud amusement park, or an unfamiliar playground could be overwhelming to a child who may have certain sensitives to sensory stimuli. With some preparation and planning, you can help make summertime enjoyable and fun for your child with sensory processing difficulties.

Understand your child’s specific needs:

It is important that you understand your child’s needs and to tune into what your child’s behavior tells you. Sensory processing difficulties may present differently and not all kids respond the same way. Thinking back to activities your child has previously enjoyed and activities that may have been difficult or too overwhelming is a great way to ensure your child has a positive summer experience. Asking questions such as “Did your child refuse to go into the water at the waterpark last summer?”, or “Did your child run away when applying sunscreen before they went outside to play?” will help you understand what activities your child may have difficulties with and what their specific needs may be for an enjoyable summer.

Make a schedule:

The school year provides kids with an orderly schedule and structure to their day. When the school year ends however, the loss of a daily routine could be disruptive and stressful for a child with sensory processing difficulties. Often times kids with sensory processing difficulties are more successful when there is a predictable schedule or routine because it allows them to feel comfortable and more prepared for what will happen each day. Here are some tips and tricks to help you and your child create a routine to stick to during the summertime:

  • Explore different activities that your child could be enrolled in such as sensory friendly classes, swimming, or day camps. These activities can mimic the schedule of a school day in a fun way your child may enjoy!

  • Work together with your child to create a calendar of the upcoming days of the week. To make it fun, use stickers and drawings to represent the future activities!

  • Once a schedule is in place, try to stick to it; consistency is key!

Think ahead-Avoid surprises:

Summertime allows for new experiences but some may be overwhelming for children with sensory processing difficulties. Preparing your child for the upcoming activities will help with feelings of anxiousness and becoming overwhelmed with new experiences. Here are some tips to help prepare your child for new experiences during summertime:

  • Focus on transitions: Provide your child with plenty of warning before transitioning from one activity to the next

  • Talk it out: Prepare your child for activities that may be overwhelming by talking out the experience in advance. Allowing them to know what is going to happen could decrease the anxiety felt when trying new experiences.

  • Break it down: Think about what sensory triggers may arise with new experiences. Breaking down the sensory components may help you and your child figure out how to manage the more overwhelming parts of the experience

  • Make a sensory on the go kit: Putting together a box of objects for sensory relief is a helpful strategy for kids to keep themselves regulated during new or overwhelming activities.

Summer tools to know:

Ensuring that your child has the right accessories and clothes may help kids have an enjoyable summer!

  • Sunglasses: Protective sunglasses will allow kids to enjoy the summer activities outside without becoming distressed.

  • Bug spray: Most bug sprays are effective however, kids with sensory processing difficulties may resist them due to the strong smell or feeling sticky. Try spraying your child’s clothing prior to them going outside instead of directly on bare skin.

  • Sunscreen: When applying sunscreen use a massaging technique with even strokes; deep pressure application is calming and organizing for many kids.

  • Protective shoes: Walking on different textures such as grass or sand could be uncomfortable for some kids. Bring a pair of beach shoes or comfortable outdoor shoes for your child so they could have fun anywhere they go!

  • Look for sensory-friendly events: Many places such as movie theaters, museums, and fairs offer summer activities for children with sensory processing difficulties. To see what’s available, do a quick internet search of sensory activities in your area!

It is important to keep in mind that the goal is for you and your child to have a comfortable and happy summer! Have fun!

Written by Marissa Donnelly, OTS