Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Sensory Processing Disorder in Toddlers

DallasThe day I learned that my son, Dallas was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) I went home and cried. I cried for his future, I cried for the unknown, I cried for finally having an answer and I cried because I felt like I somehow was responsible for this. If my body just had held on longer then maybe he wouldn’t have to go through life with a struggle. I so badly wanted to take it away for him. It wasn’t fair, He had gone through so much in the beginning and now this. If only I could of went back and told myself what I know now. I’m writing this in hopes to help those who read these searching for answers or have those same feelings when their child was diagnosed with SPD.

What is SPD?
Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition described as “Sensory Disorder” or “Sensory Integration Dysfunction.” This basically means the nervous system has a mix up of signals that are being sent from the senses. People and children with SPD have a high sensitivity to different things, in some people and children they can have a high sensitivity to sound or different textures or multiple sensitivities.

Signs and Symptoms of SPD in Children (Please keep in mind these are just a general symptom list, some children with SPD may have different symptoms)

  • Extreme response to loud or high pitched sounds
  • Avoids touch (ie: cuddling, hugging, holding hands)
  • Fearful or anxious in big crows or people even people they may know
  • Does not or has trouble engaging in activities or with peers
  • Delay in fine motor skills or speech (This is because children with SPD become easily distracted from things that they are sensitive too)
  • Very emotional if there is a disruption in daily routine
  • Does not like change

Treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder
Many doctors and specialist have said that Occupational Therapy (OT) with a sensory rich environment has a very high success rate in helping children with SPD.

How To Help Your Child at Home
When Dallas has an oversensitivity (We call them meltdowns) to something at home or while we are out. I get down to his level and make eye contact and I calmly tell him “It’s okay, Dallas. I love you and it’s going to be okay” I try to make my voice his focus so that whatever it is that is bothering him we can work through it together. If this does not work I give him his favorite blanket and I wait with him until he is calmed down.

  • Make Play Time Fun Creating a fun and sensory filled playtime at home can help your child greatly. You can find great sensory rich and fun activities and crafts on my personal pinterest board http://www.pinterest.com/ChrissySouthern/sensory-activities-and-crafts/
  • Have compassion during meltdowns It best to stay as calm as possible when your child is having a meltdown to ensure them that they did nothing wrong and everything is okay.
  • Stop it before it starts Try to avoid the places or things that causes your child to have a meltdown
  • Be Aware of your and your child’s surroundings when outside of the home. If you see something that may upset your child watch for signs and try to avoid it as much as possible.
  • Speak in a calm voice As stated above talking a calm loving voice can put the focus on you and what you’re saying instead of what is bothering your child
  • Give them comfort If your child has favorite toy or blanket (even soft music) can greatly help your child calm down
  • Keep the same routine for some children keeping the same routine gives them a sense of comfort because they know what to expect and how to handle the situation.

Keep the same routine for some children keeping the same routine gives them a sense of comfort because they know what to expect and how to handle the situation.

Getting a diagnosis
If you think your child may have Sensory Processing Disorder contact his or her pediatrician. Here is a helpful checklist from the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation that you can print off and fill out to help their pediatrician to get a better understanding of how your child may be feeling.

Hearing that you child has or may have a sensory processing disorder can bring up a lot of emotions. For some it can be hard to accept and for others it can be a sigh of relief knowing that there is a name to why your child may be feeling. My rule of thumb is to take it one day at a time. Some days will be good and some days will be difficult but as long as you work through it with a calm and positive attitude.

Chrissy Southern About Chrissy Southern

Chrissy Southern (MI) is a stay-at-home mom to her son who was born at 30 weeks after several gestational complications including Pprom and Incompetent Cervix (IC). She has dedicated her personal blog Little Miracles Nursery and YouTube Channel Mom Topic to helping families facing a NICU stay and medical complications. She's a proponent of abdominal cerclages after having her own placed in November 2013.


  1. I stumbled across this tonight, seeking advice. My son was born at 27 weeks, he has frequent meltdowns. He had one tonight at my oldest’s (son, 5) wrestling practice. It was my fault for failing to warn him that practice would be over soon & that he would need to say goodbye to the friend he was coloring with. Selfishly, I feel so mortified that everyone was staring at us. I also feel embarrassed for my oldest, who should be able to enjoy things like this. I’ve already written apology email to the team. I just feel so lost. I don’t know what to do. Do I sit there with him until he calms down & simply disregard everyone else? Do I flee the building as hastily as I possibly can as I did tonight? I don’t know how to help him. ;/

    • Hi Rachel,
      Have you talked to your pediatrician about getting an evaluation for occupational therapy for your son? Occupational therapists frequently work with kids who have sensory issues, and they can not only help them cope with some of these feelings, but they can give you strategies of handling these outbursts as well. That is the first place I would turn. Best of luck to you!


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