How My Children Make Their Own Sensory Accommodations

groceryshoppingThis is Brian grocery shopping with me yesterday.  At ten years old, he still rides in the cart and the more I put in the cart, the better.

It’s not that Brian can’t walk or has physical limitations.  Being enclosed in the cart helps him feel calm and secure in environments that are sensory nightmares.  And truth be told it also make me feel better that I don’t need to keep constant eyes and hands on him at all times.  I’ve never asked him to sit in the carts, he just started climbing in them about a year ago and as long as I’m not buying too much it’s fine by me.

Sometimes the food or the items will start to pile up on him.  We get weird looks from strangers.  But the more items, the happier he seems.  It encloses him even more and is even applying some weight on to his body.  Deep pressure is very calming for children on the spectrum or with sensory processing difficulties.

Yesterday, during this grocery shopping trip, Brian was so calm and happy.  I started thinking about how he’s been making his own adjustments to navigate the world around him.  As an occupational therapy practitioner, I help children all the time overcome the same sort of difficulties.  However, I always tell parents that I believe the best outcome is for these kids to recognize their needs and be able to make the accommodations for themselves.

Over the years I’ve watched both my boys make their own accommodations.

  • At one point, found Corbin sleeping with five pound dumbbells.  He told us he liked the pressure on his body and it helped him sleep.  Never mind that we own a weighted blanket.
  • One whole day Brian strapped himself in a life jacket and wore it every where we went.  He had just outgrown his deep pressure vest and was quick to realize the life jacket gave him the same sensation.
  • Corbin chews gum when he’s feeling anxious at school (actually listed on his IEP).  There were days a couple of years ago he would come home with his entire shirt sleeve soaked from chewing.  When his anxiety goes up, his need for oral input goes up.  For what it’s worth, I too rely on gum to keep me alert and able to focus.
  • Corbin wears long socks because “I like how it squeezes my legs”.  You can get the same sensation from Under Armor clothing worn under other clothing.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones.  I can’t say enough about them.  Though they are quite noticeable, neither of my boys have ever hesitated to wear them when they are needed.
  • Brian has actually slid his body in between the mattress and the wall on his bed before he gets to sleep to get more deep pressure.


What have you seen your child do to accommodate his or her own needs?


Heather Nelson

About Heather Nelson

Heather resides in Rockland where she is busy juggling life as a newlywed, a mom to two boys (one of which who has autism), a part time job in direct sales, and a full-time job as a pediatric occupational therapy assistant. She has a love for live music, karaoke, and cheering on the underdogs.