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What Sensory Therapies are Effective for Children?

Hi, I'm Jill!

I’m a mama-in-training of a highly sensitive son. I love yoga pants, dungeness crab season, and working from my San Francisco flat in my PJs. My mission? To help other mamas raise a thriving highly sensitive child without losing their ever-lovin’ minds!

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Want to find out if your child's sensitivity means something more?


Have you ever feel tried to tune an old, fussy radio? You know the kind with all those dials and knobs that never seem to get just right. That’s what it can feel like when we try to navigate what sensory therapies are effective for children.

We twist one knob and suddenly, their tantrums are manageable but then they start avoiding certain textures. We turn another dial, and now they sleep better but schoolwork becomes a struggle. It’s as if each adjustment leads us closer yet further away from that sweet spot of balance – frustrating isn’t it?

In this blog we will discuss sensory integration therapy to get a clear picture of one therapy option that can drastically improve a child’s life. 

A baby putting their hands in a tub of peach pits and varying nuts

Sensory Integration Therapy: An Overview

Let’s dive into the world of sensory integration therapy (SIT). This therapeutic approach helps our kiddos with sensory challenges respond more efficiently to their environment. Think of it as a workout for your child’s senses.

The SPD Foundation explains that this therapy exposes children to different sensations in a structured, repetitive way. The aim is to help them process and react better over time – kind of like muscle memory but for their senses.

This isn’t some new-fangled fad either. Sensory integration theory was developed by an occupational therapist named Jean Ayres back in the 1970s. It’s all about how we process info from our 5 key senses (tact, gustation, odoriferousness, eyesight, and audition), plus 2 additional ones you may not be familiar with – proprioception (body cognizance) & vestibular sense (equilibrium).


The Nitty-Gritty Behind Sensory Integration Therapy

During sessions with trained occupational therapists using fun activities and movement therapy – think swings or exercise balls – children are given just-right challenges where they can succeed yet feel challenged enough to be engaged and motivated.

Mama bear alert though: Not every kid will need this type of intervention even if they have difficulty processing sensory input because each one is unique. That’s why it’s so important to work closely with professionals who understand your child’s specific needs.

Busting Some Therapy Myths 

Nope. Sorry folks… there aren’t any magic fixes here. 

While some parents may claim miracles after trying this treatment option; others see little change at all. And despite what some people say online — no research supports the idea that sensory integration therapy can “cure” or fundamentally change your child’s brain structure. 

But many families do report improvements in behavior and function, which is why it remains a popular treatment option.

Remember, it’s not about ‘fixing’ our kids but helping them manage sensory input more effectively to improve their day-to-day lives.


Key Takeaway: 

Delving into sensory integration therapy, it’s like a gym for your child’s senses. Developed in the 70s, this method helps highly sensitive kids react better to their environment using fun activities. But remember mamas, not every child needs this and there’s no magic “cure” – just improvements in behavior and function.

Role of Occupational Therapists in Sensory Integration Therapy

The journey to sensory integration for children starts with an occupational therapist (OT). These superheroes don’t wear capes, but their expertise and dedication change lives. Specially trained OTs are the architects behind effective SIT.

Creating a Treatment Plan

An initial evaluation by an OT gives a clear understanding of your child’s nervous system responses to different types of sensory input. The occupational therapy process involves observing how your child responds during fun activities designed to challenge their senses. 

Are they enjoying that pit of dried lima beans or does it seem overwhelming? 

Can they balance on the exercise ball without getting dizzy?

Once these observations are made, our superhero gets down to business: creating a tailored treatment plan for each kiddo’s unique needs. 

Training Parents for Home-Based Therapy

But here’s where you come in. You see, while the OT is crucial in starting this journey towards better managing sensory challenges, parents need training too – kinda like Batman teaching Robin all his tricks.

This hands-on approach gets parents involved in home-based therapies such as carrying weights or drinking cold water at regular intervals throughout the day to help manage sensory overload.

You’re not left alone though; your trusty sidekick – I mean OT – will be there every step of the way guiding you through strategies specific to your child’s needs.

Tools and Techniques Used in Sensory Integration Therapy

SIT uses various tools and techniques to help children manage sensory struggles. These therapies often take place in a specialized setting called a ‘sensory gym’, equipped with specialized equipment.

The Wilbarger Protocol

One such technique is the Wilbarger protocol, which uses a soft-bristled brush to provide deep pressure input. This method helps enhance sensory stimulation for better motor control.

Weighted vests are another common tool used during sessions. They give kids an added sense of body awareness by providing them with extra weight to carry around. The additional load helps improve their balance treatments while also helping them understand how much force they need to use when moving or handling objects.

Beyond physical activities, therapists can also use things like drinking cold water as part of the therapy program. It might seem simple but taking sips of cold water throughout the day can have calming effects on some children’s nervous systems.

In addition, fun activities that involve sensory input – like playing in a ball pit – offer more than just enjoyment; these experiences aid young children in treating their sensory difficulties through play-based learning.

 Not all strategies will work equally well for every child due to variations among individuals’ responses to different forms of stimulus – it’s always a good idea for parents involved in this process seek guidance from specially trained OTs who hold a clear understanding about each kid’s unique needs.
All said and done; be it carrying weights or brushing using special brushes—these interventions designed around what Jean Ayres called “Sensory Integration Therapy”, help children with sensory issues respond more appropriately to their environment, and consequently live happier, healthier lives.


Key Takeaway: 

SIT uses tools like weighted vests and techniques such as the Wilbarger protocol to help children manage sensory overload. Drinking cold water, or engaging in play-based activities that involve sensory input, can also be effective strategies. Remember, it’s essential to tailor these methods to each child’s unique needs for the best results.

Sensory Integration Therapy for Highly Sensitive Children

As you may know, highly sensitive children often experience an overwhelming flood of sensory input that can make daily life quite difficult.

SIT provides therapeutic activities that can be beneficial to highly sensitive children.These activities help regulate the body and in turn, help children to better process sensory triggers when they arise. Simple activities like spending time in a ball pit, where they get deep pressure from the balls against their body or even using specially designed equipment such as standing on a bosu ball can be very effective.

The Benefits of Sensory Integration Therapy

  • Reduced Sensory Overload: Through gradual exposure and carefully structured activities, children become desensitized to stimuli that previously caused them discomfort or anxiety.
  • Better Emotional Regulation: As kids gain control over their reactions to sensory input, they often experience fewer emotional outbursts and show improved mood stability.
  • Enhanced Social Interaction: With decreased sensitivity comes an increased ability to participate in social settings without feeling overwhelmed, allowing for deeper connections with peers.
  • Increase in Confidence: Successfully managing sensory challenges boosts self-esteem as children realize they have the power over their own experiences.


Key Takeaway: 

Tailored therapeutic activities can help highly sensitive children manage the overwhelming sensory input that they often experience, improving their daily life. Benefits include reduced sensory overload, better emotional regulation, enhanced social interaction, and increased confidence. 

FAQs in Relation to What Sensory Therapies Are Effective for Children

What therapy is best for sensory issues?

Sensory integration therapy, often provided by occupational therapists, is highly effective in managing sensory processing disorders in children.

What are some sensory strategies for children?

Techniques like repetitive exposure has shown great success in treating sensory processing challenges. Occupational Therapists can also create a “sensory diet” that can be used at home to help manage these challenges.

How effective is sensory integration therapies?

Sensory integration therapies show positive outcomes according to many families. But remember it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution – individual results vary greatly based on specific needs and conditions.


Now you’re tuned in to what sensory therapies are effective for children. Sensory Integration Therapy, with its unique blend of structured activities and individualized treatment plans, can make a real difference.

It’s the OTs who work their magic here. They craft personalized strategies based on each child’s needs. They guide parents too, equipping them with skills to support therapy at home.

Sensory processing challenges have no one-size-fits-all solution. Each case is as unique as your kiddo! But tools like weighted vests or techniques such as the Wilbarger Protocol could be game-changers.

So remember: early intervention matters and it’s about more than just formal sessions – create that sensory-friendly environment at home too!

What Sensory Therapies are Effective for Children?

Jill Gilbert

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