QUESTION: Dangerous Sensory-Seeking Behaviors?

QUESTION:

I have a daughter who is almost 3 and has been diagnosed with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. It has been very hard to get an OT. I have been told she is a sensory seeker and loves thrill and pain. It really scares me because I find her on top of window sills, dressers, TV, and even our second story balcony! How can I stop her from engaging in these dangerous behaviors?

GWEN’S ANSWER:

Safety issues like this need to be handled two ways:

1. Sensory: We need to recognize that she is not trying to be “naughty.” Rather, she is simply trying to get the intense sensory input her brain needs. Try to set up your house to allow safe ways to get high-intensity sensory input. Ideas:

* Get rid of her bed frame. By having her mattress directly on the floor, you can encourage her to jump/roll/crash all she wants with limited safety concerns.
* Get a large ball. It can be a therapy ball, an exercise ball, or just an extra-large play ball. Encourage her to sit on it while watching TV or lay on it while rolling forward to push off with her hands, bounce on it, etc. There are many ways to use a large ball to get sensory input.
* Play Follow the Leader or set up obstacle courses for her to go through. Encourage as much crawling and rolling as possible. For example, have her crawl under the table, roll across the carpet, crab walk across the tile, slither under the coffee table, somersault across the couch cushions, etc.

2. Behavioral: Even though she isn’t deliberately trying to be “naughty,” she still needs to learn that dangerous behaviors are simply unacceptable. Find a consequence that works for her… time out, maybe? Let me know if you need other ideas for consequences. The next time you see her thinking about or heading toward a dangerous situation, remind her of acceptable alternatives (jumping on mattress) and of possible consequences.

Above all, remember that children like your daughter need constant adult supervision. This can be very tiring for a parent. Look into respite care services or college students who need volunteer hours to help you out and give you much-needed breaks.

I hope you can find an OT to partner with you on this journey.

Best Wishes,
Gwen