Sensory Processing and Sensitivity

Although it is indisputable that many children have challenges with sensory processing and sensitivity, there is controversy about whether Sensory Processing Disorder is, in fact, its own disorder rather than an aspect of something else, such as autism, ADHD, or anxiety. Check out this great article from the Child Mind Institute for more discussion about the controversy. There is also yet-inconclusive evidence about whether and to what extent a sensory diet (i.e., tailoring a child’s sensory input to their individual needs) is helpful. That said, many families and providers have found it useful to consider and address a child’s sensory needs, regardless of the conceptualization. Supporting a child with unique sensory needs often consists of a combination of accommodation (e.g., providing ear defenders to block noise; encouraging a child to play with a fidget spinner during class) and teaching coping skills to increase a child’s tolerance of their non-preferred levels of stimulation. These books validate a child’s experience, help them articulate their sensory preferences, encourage self-advocacy, and introduce the concept of a sensory diet.

So Loud It Hurts!

Written and illustrated by Elaheh Bos
Age range: Any child who is able to express themselves verbally–perhaps preschool through 2nd or 3rd grade, but it could be appropriate for older children who are struggling to express themselves and their sensory needs.
Recommended for: This book encourages children to problem solve and self-advocate in order to reduce their exposure to sensations that are uncomfortable to them (in this case, loud noises at a birthday party). It’s a perfect fit for any child who has dreaded a birthday party due to a fear that popping balloons or a loud rendition of the Happy Birthday song will overwhelm them. It is not specific to autism-related sensory sensitivities but would be a good fit for an autistic child with sensitivity to sounds.

Sensory Seeking Sloth

Written and illustrated by Jennifer Jones
Age range: Preschool through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This book is a relatively fun way to introduce the idea of increasing a child’s sensory input throughout the day to meet their sensory needs. This can be a helpful intervention for some children with autism, ADHD, anxiety, and body-focused repetitive behaviors (e.g., skin-picking and hair-pulling). It introduces the concept of sensory seeking and provides many concrete examples a child can try out (e.g., jumping on a trampoline, eating something crunchy, playing with a fidget toy). School psychologists and counselors, as well as OTs, may particularly find this book useful when discussing interventions for kids to try out.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This silly book written in rhyme empathizes with kids whose feet feel uncomfortable in socks, and it gently pokes fun of the great lengths parents will go to in order to find socks their child will wear. In the end, Tommy eschews these accommodations, picks out a pair of socks on his own, and tolerates the discomfort because he wants to get to school to play with his friends. It’s a great way to start a conversation about strategies for tolerating discomfort when sensory accommodations aren’t possible or don’t seem to be helping.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book is a fun read for kids who need some encouragement to advocate respectfully for what they want. It’s especially, but not specifically, relevant to children who are bothered by loud noises and/or who love math. Kids who tend to complain without doing anything about the situation or who use aggressive or passive aggressive strategies may benefit from Isobel’s experimentation with these different strategies and her ultimate realization that kindly and directly articulating one’s preferences is often most effective.