How to Cope With Sensory Integration Disorder

Two Methods:Tips for ParentsTips for People with SID

Many people have never heard of Sensory Integration Disorder (also known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction or Sensory Processing Disorder) but more is being learned about it all the time. It is often found in people with other disorders, especially autism and Asperger's Syndrome, but also including multiple sclerosis, dyslexia, and Tourette's Syndrome. If you have it, you may not realise that your aversions to certain stimuli are anything but normal. In fact, many people with Sensory Integration Disorder wonder how other people can stand doing the things that they cannot!

There are different degrees of Sensory Integration Disorder. It can be so mild as to hardly be noticeable, or it can be all but completely incapacitating. There are also different types, which often overlap. People can be hyposensitive (not sensitive enough) to some stimuli, and hypersensitive (too sensitive) to others. Some people are hypo/hyper-sensitive to pain, movement, tactile sensations (textures and feelings of objects), lights, sound, or touch.

Method 1
Tips for Parents

  1. Image titled Fall Asleep with Insomnia at a Young Age Step 5
    If you have a child with Sensory Integration Disorder, realize that they will likely not be able to list everything that causes them discomfort. How would you list every sensation that you find pleasurable off the top of your head?
  2. Image titled Tell Someone They Have Bad Breath Step 1
    Find out what your child can and can't handle. This will take trial and error, time, and a lot of frustration, but there's nothing else to be done for it. Observe their reactions to stimuli, note what makes them overwhelmed, and talk to them when they have problems.
    • Notice underlying patterns. For example, if your daughter is afraid of unexpected touch, refuses to wear jeans, and avoids getting her hands dirty, she is probably hypersensitive to touch. Checklists of various hyper- and hyposensitivities exist online to help you find patterns.[1]
  3. Image titled Cope With Sensory Integration Disorder Step 3
    Once you know, avoid that stimulus if at all possible. Some children can't tolerate lumps in their food. If this is the case, puree their soups and make sure mashed potatoes are completely mashed, to begin with. Some children can't tolerate certain fabrics. If they don't know how to express this intolerance, which is likely no matter what the age of the child, this may result in epic meltdowns if they are dressed in the fabric or made to sleep with a blanket of the fabric.
  4. Image titled Let Children Be Children Step 2
    Consider therapy. An occupational therapist can help your child learn to handle greater amounts of stimuli, or find constructive ways to deal with their excess energy. A therapist can increase your child's comfort levels, making them more engaged and cheerful.
    • Sensory integration therapy takes a while to make progress. It's better to start sooner rather than later.
  5. Image titled Care for Children (4 years and older) Who Have a Fever Step 6
    Plan ways to comfort your child when they feel overwhelmed. Sensory overload can feel frightening and disorienting, and your child may have no idea how to cope or handle the stress.
    • Quickly escort your child to a quiet place where they can recover. You may want to set up a calming down corner for this purpose.
    • Avoid placing demands on an overloaded child. They will probably not be able to handle the request, and may even lose the ability to process what you are saying. Try to avoid talking unnecessarily or touching them.[2]
    • After the child feels better, you can ask them what triggered the overload, and brainstorm ways to prevent similar situations in the future.
  6. Image titled Become an Adventurer As a Kid or Teen Step 10
    Take your child outdoors. Time spent exploring, walking around, and getting exercise will engage your child's senses in a comfortable way that they can control.
  7. Image titled Make a DIY Swing Made from Old Tire and Chain Step 13
    Find sensory activities that your child enjoys. Engaging their senses in a fun, relaxed way will help their brains handle sensory input better. Try finger paints, swings, climbing, bear hugs, jumping rope, and other activities.
  8. Image titled Get Away from the Computer Step 2
    Always, always, always remember that the person with Sensory Integration Disorder cannot help it! In all but the very most mild cases, the person actually cannot tolerate the sensation. It's not a preference, it's not just that they don't feel like it, they can't stand it.
    • The intolerance can manifest itself as distraction (like a mosquito buzzing around your ear), irritation (like those noisy neighbors who party all night), or even physical pain (like someone holding your ear to a megaphone and screaming into it). You'd cry too if it felt like your shirt was made of fire ants.
  9. Image titled Let Children Be Children Step 6
    Give your child plenty of reassurance. Life is rough when it feels like the world is constantly attacking you. Your love and respect will help your child put on a brave face and stay confident.

Method 2
Tips for People with SID

  1. Image titled Stop Cursing Step 1
    If you're living with Sensory Integration Disorder, realise that you're not alone. You're not strange or broken.
  2. Image titled Complete a Girl Scout Silver Award Step 7
    Take time to research SID. You can learn how it works, how it's treated, and what things you can do at home to improve your sensory processing abilities. The internet is full of resources that can help you.
    • Autistic people often have SID too. They tend to congregate in blogs and under the hashtags #actuallyautistic and #askanautistic. Many of them are quite helpful and can offer tips about managing difficult stimuli. You may even make some new friends that way!
  3. Image titled Learn How to Laugh at Your Mistakes Step 5
    Figure out your own stimuli. Since you're the one dealing with them, this should be reasonably simple. Make a list of things that cause you distress. Consider sharing it with parents, siblings, or trusted friends, so they know how to help you. If possible, carry the list with you. Every time you realise there's something missing, write it down!
  4. Image titled Be a Speaker Step 6
    Consider asking your school or workplace for accommodations. For example, if loud sounds cause pain for you, you can ask if you are allowed not to attend school assemblies in the gym, rather than spending them covering your ears or feeling uncomfortable. Sensory issues are a legitimate medical reason and your school or employer should honor them within reason.
    • Research what sort of accommodations can be made for autistic people, as plenty of those are for sensory issues.[3][4]
  5. Image titled Prepare for Your First Year of Sleep Away Camp (Girls) Step 1
    Consider the possibility of therapy. If your insurance covers occupational therapy, it can be considerably less expensive to you. Research the costs and benefits of sensory integration therapy. If you live with your parents, explain the benefits to them and ask if you can start seeing an occupational therapist.
  6. Image titled "Kick It" in the End of a Race Step 6
    Casually ask people if you're not certain if your perception of something is normal. For example: "Does this sweater feel scratchy to you?", "Do you hear that buzzing sound (of those fluorescent lights)?", et cetera.
  7. Image titled Complete a Girl Scout Silver Award Step 9
    Give yourself plenty of downtime. Find hobbies that relax you, and set aside time to do quiet activities each day. Downtime is especially important when you have sensory issues, because it allows you to stay balanced and avoid meltdowns or shutdowns.
  8. Image titled Write a Five Year Plan Step 5
    As you write down your sensitivities, try to figure out ways to avoid them. Feel free to jot down ideas on the same list!


  • If you go shopping with friends who don't know about Sensory Integration Disorder (as few people do), you may be laughed at for recoiling from certain tactile sensations. Don't get angry. First, imagine how amusing it might be to you if somebody recoiled violently from your favourite sensation. Next, calmly explain what caused your reaction. A good way to explain to a layman is that your brain is miswired in such a way as to misinterpret harmless sensations as attacks, thus triggering the fight or flight adrenal reaction in your body. Perhaps compare it to a phobia, in which an innocuous object such as a button or cotton ball can trigger the same panic response.
  • Look for patterns! Especially if the person with Sensory Integration Disorder cannot explain what bothers them for whatever reason, pay attention. Do temper tantrums always occur when your son goes to the arcade? Does your daughter always freak out when you go to the store when it's crowded? If you put that sweater on your little girl, is a tantrum inevitable? These are all common manifestations of Sensory Integration Disorder.


  • Never yell at someone for being unable to tolerate a sensation. This may undo all their efforts to stay calm, and they may cry, melt down, or even throw a tantrum.
  • Some people with Sensory Integration Disorder are hyposensitive to pain. They may giggle when given an injection. More worryingly, some can receive second degree burns without even blinking. If this is the case with your child, you will need to monitor them closely and teach them to take care of themselves.

Article Info

Categories: Stimming and Sensory Issues | Neurological Disorders