Thriving in the Early Years with Your Sensory Kid - Tips from an O.T. Mom

Summary:  Do you have a 2e child with sensory issues or Sensory Processing Disorder?  Sharing parenting tips for a gifted or 2e child with sensory issues, including how we dealt with sleep issues and more. 

Oh, the early years....Such joy, such exhaustion...
 We were SO delighted to receive our precious one at her orphanage in China. We learned that she was gifted there during a long bus ride, where she was glued to the window for hours, while all the other babies were oblivious to the view and crying.  Ours was studying the topography.

She came to us at age 1 year, and not yet walking, due to the lack of opportunity in the orphanage.

But once in our home, free to explore and test her self, she became VERY active...

Jumping all over the couch, soon doing hand stands  all the time, and always wanting to be upside down.

How could we keep our home from being upside down, too?

Oh, the intensity!  The  hyperactivity!

Were we SO tired every night!  Exhausted.
But was she at bedtime?  Well....not often.

And almost as soon as she learned to talk.....the Why questions.

It was hard to keep up with all of them!  And actually, we really couldn't.  Not every day.

Photo from Hyperactivity and Inattention (ADHD
Then she began to share her deep fears of loud noises and other sensory issues....The loud noises caused her to come unglued.

Vacuuming terrified her.

And our little one was very anxious, too.  Of course she was, with the tremendous change in environment that she was experiencing, coming from China.

But she also tended towards anxiety herself.

We were thrilled with our sensitive, intelligent and intense little one, but we also were also very overwhelmed.

 And we had to figure things out pretty quickly, as we were started with a toddler from day one.

We learned to focus on our own self care, so that we could function and care for our little one.  That was not in the baby books.  But we needed to for sure.

The first thing we had to do was to get us all sleeping...We could not think or problem solve on limited sleep.


Sleep of course is so important.  We found that a set bedtime routine helped a lot, and a consistent bedtime, to give us parents some breathing time to wind down after she got to bed.

We found some baby relaxation tapes and they were a help, too.  Sometimes our daughter had to kind of play herself to sleep, if nothing else worked.  We set her up in her bed with quiet toys and those helped her to unwind.

When my toddler was old enough, around 2 years, I taught her diaphragmatic breathing, to help her to relax and get to sleep.

Relaxation and Diaphragmatic Breathing

We laid down on the floor together and practiced with toys...I put a toy on her tummy and we practiced:

"Tummy goes up, the tummy goes down" - to get the diaphragmatic breathing going.

We also watched funny and silly movies and such together.

Next, we worked to build breaks into our week....

Get a Break 

Two things that helped us to get a break:

- We found a baby play/baby gymnastics class, and our daughter loved it.  That gave her a physical outlet, and myself a break.  Double win.  And a bit of adult time.

-  Secondly, we went on what we called Snipe Hunts.

We pilled into the car, and we needed to be very quiet, as we were going on a hunt for snipes.  We drove oh, so quietly....and stopped here and there to listen for the Snipes.

Oh, the fun of that plus the peace for a while!

Consider Regular Naps

We instituted naps.  Our daughter learned to play in her room for an hour in the afternoons if she didn't go to sleep.  This was a Godsend for me, again the quiet time I craved.

Use Offers of Babysitting

We found a teen who helped us out once a week, so we could go out for dinner.

Take advantage of other's offers of help.  We didn't start this right away, as our baby needed to adjust to everything and get to know us, trusting that we would be back, before we felt we could add in new people.  That was unique to our kiddo, because of all the changes she had in her first year.

Use the Library

We were always at the library.  There, I let my toddler pull out lots of books, then choose what to take home.  We got audio books there, too, and were regulars at story time.   That was another way of getting a break for me.  And a bit of adult time.

You know, they do have staff that are paid to pick up books!  And we always left LOTS of them, lol.

Our focus with our daughter was not early academics.  Our daughter needed us, not to learn the colors of crayons.  She needed to bond, learn to trust, and to feel loved.

Instead of early academics, we focused exploration and play.  And again, lots of trips to the library.

Meeting Sensory Needs

Our daughter had SPD, sensory processing disorder, and needed a lot of sensory input in her day.  She craved vestibular input, like you get from spinning or swinging.

Play Favorites Sit and Spin Toy
She loved a spinner that we got from a consignment shop.

We also got a large exercise ball, with a handle, that she used to bounce across the room.  A LOT.  That is now one of my favorite memories!

A small trampoline for inside the house was a hit, too. Other ideas include providing different textures to feel such as in sand play, or small sensory bins.

Calming Your Child

Our toddler loved to use small towels or soft toys to carry around, snuggle with, or to suck on.

When my toddler was over stimulated, sometimes she liked to be gently wrapped up kind of like you do when swaddling an infant.  We took one side of the blanket, laying it across her body, then the other side, same thing.  Then we tucked the rest in.  This can be very calming to a child.

Another technique was to help the toddler roll up into a blanket like a taco. This was easily done, by laying out the blanket and helping her roll up into it. I made sure it was not tight, and only for a short time, but it sure was a help in calming at times.

Some kids also use weighted blankets, especially for kiddos with ADHD and SPD like ours.

Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets provide deep tactile input, which naturally helps to calm overactive nerves.  These have small weights inside them to provide the calming deep pressure.  The photo below links to an article with instructions for making one of your own.

LINK - How to Make Our Weighted Blanket by Namafish  

NOTE - Precautions for using weighted blankets for toddlers and kids:
"Weighted blankets are not recommended for children under the age of 2 years old.  Keeping this in mind, be sure to use a safe weight.  Since the average weight of toddlers between 2 to 3 years old is 20 to 30 pounds, the recommended weight (10% of body weight plus 1 - 2 pounds) would be no more than 5 pounds."  .
... quoted from Harkla OT blog, author is a certified pediatric Occupational Therapist.

Photo from Fairfield World
Weighted Vests

Some kiddos do well with weighted vests.  They do the same thing as the blankets, providing a calming effect through deep pressure.

Fairfield World has instructions for making a weighted vests as shown to the right. LINK - How to Make a Sensory Vest

My daughter has grown into a young woman since then.  Now as a college student about to graduate, we still see the intensities, the sensory issues, and some ADD (not ADHD anymore)....

But we also see a wonderful young adult who has learned to manage these things well.

And to channel them into her passions, her studies, her activities and her job explorations.

She wants to work at a nonprofit or in beginning management, with a long term goal of becoming a state Senator or Representative.

She will graduate, with honors next month.

And I am so happy that she found her tribe in college!

I can't wait to see what happens next!

I am honored to join in this month's blog hop. To reach all the other great posts on this topic in the Hoagie's Gifted Education Page Parenting Considerations Blog Hop.

I was recently asked to write for the top special education site on this topic.  I invite you to click 8 Tips for Homeschooling a Twice Exceptional Student for more ideas and encouragement.

What would you add to this list?   I love reading your comments.

Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,


Betsy is retired O.T, homeschool blogger, and most importantly is mom to her 2e college grad, whom she homeschooled through high school.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early yearshigh schoolcollege and 2e 

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  1. Great summation, Betsy! So many wonderful gifted toddler ideas and suggestions here.

    1. Thank you, Colleen! It was fun to put this together, as my "baby" is now getting ready to graduate college, with a BA in Communications, Political Science, and Global Leadership. Thanks for ALL that you do for the gifted and twice-exceptional community. Raising Lifelong Learners is a stellar resource to our community!

  2. Good advice for helping a young child manage those anxieties and sensitivities.

    1. Thank you, Gail Post, Ph.D. from Gifted Challenges. Thanks for stopping by and it is so nice to meet you!


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