7 Types of Sensory Needs & Creative Solutions
There are many different sensory types and as many types of sensory needs! What's a grown-up to do? If you're overwhelmed by all the information out there about sensory processing, we can help you narrow down all this information a bit.
As a parent to a sensory kid, I've had the good fortune to learn a lot about the different sensory types from an occupational therapist and a pediatrician, as well as my child's learning plan team at school. With this knowledge, I love helping kids and parents find great toys for their needs because when these needs are met, children are more successful.
Meeting these needs also helps the grown-ups in your sensory kiddo's life. When needs are addressed and met in the classroom or at home, then your child can focus, better absorb information at a faster speed, and is more likely to remember to use any coping strategies they have learned.
Here are 7 different types of sensory needs, and some solutions and tools that can be used at home, as well as found here at Beyond the Blackboard.
A Child With Oral Needs May
- Not like brushing their teeth or having their teeth professionally cleaned (this dislike goes beyond general discomfort - for example, they may require interventions for a regular visit to the dentist)
- Bite frequently
- Not like foods with certain textures
- Often chew on their sleeve, pencils, fingernails, etc.
- Be a very picky eater
- Consistently crave salty, spicy, or sour flavors
Solutions for Oral Needs
- Use a vibrating toothbrush
- Provide crunchy snacks like apples, baby carrots, or seaweed snacks
- Have a chewy on-hand
- Provide chewing gum (if age appropriate)
A Child With Self-Movement Needs May
- Love tight hugs or being "squished"
- Jump or skip everywhere (instead of walking)
- Hold objects too tightly
- Be afraid of stairs or escalators
- Be called "clumsy"
- Seek pressure
Solutions for Self-Movement Needs
- Practice picking things up with tongs
- Provide a pressure or stress ball
- Practice walking over pillows or on surfaces with different textures
- Provide a weighted plush or lovey
A Child With Auditory Needs May
- Be extremely afraid of fireworks, or be startled and overwhelmed by crashing noises or loud sounds (for example, a fire alarm may cause an older child to "shut down" or become very upset)
- Always be tapping their feet or their hands ("drumming")
- Always turn up the volume on their device or when listening to music
Solutions for Auditory Needs
- Encourage percussion lessons or provide instruments!
- Make sure noise-cancelling headphones are always available for your child
A Child With Balance Needs May
- Always be in motion
- Love to be upside down
- Love to spin
- Crave intense or fast movement (roller coasters!)
Solutions for Balance Needs
A Child With Tactile Needs May
- Avoid certain materials
- Dislike clothing in general
- Not like being touched
- Love touching things that are smooth or have a soothing quality
- Not like showers or getting wet
- Not like being barefoot or walking on grass or sand
- Wash their hands a lot
- Dislike seams and tags in clothing
Solutions for Tactile Needs
- Play outside (in the grass!) often!
- Buy seamless or tagless clothing (check out this list of sensory-friendly clothes for kids!)
- Provide soft manipulatives like Land of Dough
- Encourage putty play
- Encourage chores that use water (like washing dishes, if age appropriate)
A Child With Visual Needs May
- Avoid eye contact
- Avoid bright lights
Solutions for Visual Needs
- There shouldn't be too many wall decorations in their spaces, and decorations should be calming
- Use a weighted plush friend to practice making eye contact
A Child With Olfactory Needs May
- Be extremely sensitive to scents (perfume, coffee, laundry detergent, etc.)
Solutions for Olfactory Needs
- Provide manipulatives that are naturally scented with essential oils
- Use unscented laundry detergent and fabric softener
It's important to note that most "sensory kids" experience a combination of these types of needs! If you have questions about sensory needs and preferences in your child, reach out to your pediatrician, who can refer you to a local occupational therapist.