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Well-known author of The Out-of-Sync Child series discusses sensory processing, shame, courage, and curiosity with The Sensory Perspective's Sandra Van Nest.  

Beginnings as a preschool teacher

An Invisible Disability

Children with sensory processing differences often look like everyone else and often have strengths in specific areas of development.  In early childhood, they may seem like they never stop moving or like they are afraid of typical childhood experiences (like the playground), but at the same time, they may be early readers or extremely talented builders.

This can be difficult for adults to understand.

The students who stuck with her.

The Out-of-Sync Child

Children with sensory differences might be unaware of their own boundaries.  In a classroom, this means that they cannot sit still easily.  They might have a need to touch everything around them, or not notice that they are sitting on top of toys, or need to be very close to another child in order to play with them. 


These behaviors are not conscious and happen as the need for sensory input challenges the child's body, but they can be "irksome" to other children and teachers.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists work to help people do what would naturally occupy their time.  For children, this is play, school skills, and self care.

Occupational therapy (OT) is crucial to children with sensory differences. OTs will be able to assess sensory differences and how to best support a child's physiological needs.  


OTs may create a "sensory diet" for the child to follow throughout the day.  Sensory diets are related to prescribed experiences to help a child stay sensory regulated and able to participate.

Occupational Therapy changes her career.

Sensory Systems that impact children in preschool.

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is ongoing sensory dysregulation that significantly impacts or impairs a person's day-to-day activities.  Though not an official diagnosis within the DSM-5 or the ICD-11, the term is used within medical, therapeutic, and educational systems.


An interdisciplinary work group formed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) met for more than two years leading up to the latest revision of the DSM.  The work group ultimately recommended that SPD be labeled as a stand-alone diagnosis.  

The APA did not accept this recommendation.  

The Sensory Perspective

An adult with a calm, regulated body will positively impact children.

            ~Take time to ensure that your                    own needs are met.

            ~Get fresh air, good food, and                  enough sleep.

            ~Stay in tune with your sensory                system.       

The Sensory Perspective

A child with an "irksome" behavior may be experiencing sensory dysregulation.

       ~He may be seeking additional input         by running, climbing, or touching.

       ~She may be overwhelmed by                 emotions and need to avoid                     sensation in order to re-regulate.

       ~He may not be able to hear                   instructions because he is                         distracted by sensory input.

The Sensory Perspective

Coordination and collaboration among a child's caregivers, teachers, and therapists are crucial.

       ~Parents are the expert on their own         child.

       ~Teachers frame how and what                 a child learns and have long-term             insight into academics.

       ~Occupational, physical, and                   speech therapists all assist a child             and family in functional skills of                 specific areas of development.

       ~Psychotherapists help the child and         family "make sense" of sensory                differences and handle the emotions          that follow.

Attention and Focus

Children with sensory differences often have a difficult time focusing.

Sometimes they can't pay attention to the world around them because they are hyper-focused on internal process (i.e. sensory seeking or sensory avoiding).

Sometimes they can't pay attention  because they are hyper-focused on the input of one sensory system (i.e. the sound of the water dripping from a faucet).  

To adults, the behaviors of hyper-focus may appear rude or naughty. 

The Sensory Perspective on shame.

The Sensory Perspective

There are pros and cons to having a specific diagnosis.  By definition, it pathologizes a person's experience.

     ~PRO: It gives an organically-based           explanation for tricky behaviors and           limitations, making adults more patient.

     ~CON: It implies that something is              wrong with the way a child                       experiences the world, leaving

       her to feel that she is wrong. 

     ~PRO: It builds a common language to       discuss a person's experience so that         he and his family may better find               community.

     ~CON: Diagnoses are often                     stigmatizing and may lead to bias             within the educational or community           setting.

Finding forgiveness of self in curiosity.


We all do the best we can with what we understand.  One tool for helping children be successful is curiosity.  


When a child is not successful in a situation, a curious mind will keep reflecting on the whats, whys, and hows of the situation without the need to judge the child or the adult.  


This creates a loop of reflection that will facilitate the child's success and the adult's toolbox to handle whatever happens next. 

The Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up

As a child grows up, she can explain more readily how she feels.  But in early childhood, feelings come out in play.  

Give her plenty of opportunities for unstructured and child-led play. 

       *Give her orange juice cartons to smash. 

         *Walk around and follow her lead           in timing and focus.  If she wants           to stop and discuss a leaf,              let her. 

Be available with no conditions for some amount of time each day.

Courage as the Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up

Sensory Processing Disorder

Overall Life

Sensory processing impacts children's bodies, minds, experiences, and emotions.  

Give them the physical activity that they seek.

*Limit screen time. 

When children look at a screen, they aren't moving around and sensory input is lessened.

*Get those babies out of their car seats when not in a car.

Strapping a baby into a seat facilitates an adult's ease with daily activities, but it lessens a baby's ability to explore and receive the sensory input that she needs to feel comfortable and happy.  Consider other opportunities that keep her safe but allow her to move about, such as a pack and play cot.

The Sensory Perspective

Unconditional positive regard for self and children will help eliminate shame and increase coping skills.

     ~ When a child is unable to sit quietly       for a story...he isn't a "bad boy."  He       simply does not have the skills needed        to sit quietly.  

      ~When a child screams each time            that she touches sand at the                      beach...she isn't a "drama queen."  Her body feels overwhelmed by the texture and frightened.

Keeping the child's sensory experience in mind in these situations creates a new tool for success and understanding.

The Sensory Perspective

As a child grows up, he creates stories within his mind that explain the messages that he receives.  

      ~Be open to conversations as they            come up.  Avoid trying to "fix it" or            saying "it's OK." 

       ~ Discuss his experiences and                  thoughts and help him explore what          he feels.  

       ~ Facilitate his ability to make                  meaning out of his life that reflects the        values of your family and his place in        the world.

The Sensory Perspective

Believe a child when he explains how he experiences the world.  While adults are always in charge of health and safety, a child should be able to speak his truth without blame or shame or dismissal.

      ~He will grow strong and confident             in trusting himself.

      ~He will know that he can come to            you with problems and you will help          him find a solution.

      ~He will follow your calm                        consideration and will deescalate              more quickly when his body or                  emotions become dysregulated. 

The Sensory Perspective

When a child hears messages from adults that she is rude over and over, she will begin to identify herself as a rude person.

When a child hears messages from adults     that he is naughty over and over, he will      use naughty behavior to find the adult           attention that he needs to feel                      comfortable.

             When a child hears                                messages from adults that                      what she experiences as                           frightening is "really no big                    deal" over and over, she will stop             trusting her own intuition.

When a child hears messages from adults that what he experiences as "true" is really "false" over and over, he will become defiant of authority.

It just makes sense.

A long story short...

You can find out more about Carol Stock Kranowitz, her amazing career, thoughts about sensory processing, and a list of her best selling books at

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