Sensory Processing Disorder is usually divided into one of two categories: sensory over-responsive (sometimes called sensory avoidant or sensory defensiveness) and sensory under-responsive (sometimes called sensory seeking). Most people with sensory challenges generally fall into one of these categories, but it's not exactly that simple because a person can be over-responsive in some senses and under-responsive with others (as Daniel is). In general, Daniel avoids intense visual, auditory, and vestibular sensory input, but he seeks out tactile and proprioceptive stimulation.
I mention these things because even though the products in this list have the potential to be helpful for most children with sensory challenges, my list originates from my own personal experience of parenting my child with his unique set of sensory needs. As I was compiling this list, I decided to split it into two parts: first, five products that have helped us with sensory-seeking behaviors; second, five products that have helped with decreasing sensory stimulation.
Without further ado, here's Part One:
5 Tools for Seeking Sensory Input
1. Chewys (Oral Motor Tools)
Chewys are great for teething babies and toddlers, and they also provide calming sensory stimulation through the mouth and jaw for older kids (and even adults).
Some of our favorites include Siliconies Turtle Pendant (pictured on Daniel to the right), Chewy Tubes P's and Q's, and the Grabber Oral Motor Chew. Daniel also loves this knobby chewy tube, which he calls his "Chewy T." (He also figured out that blowing into the Chewy T can make a pretty cool whistling noise, which we all think is fun.) The Razbaby silicone teether (which is knobby like a raspberry) has also remained popular with Daniel since his teething days.
2. Mini Trampoline
A mini trampoline can be a huge help for any kid who is spending too much time cooped up inside due to cold or otherwise inclimate weather. Sensory-wise, a trampoline provides vestibular input as well as proprioceptive stimulation through the major joints of the feet and legs. Daniel loves his trampoline (which we have on long-term loan from a friend—thank you again!) and there are definitely some days when I don't know what we would do without it. You can also find mini trampolines with a handrail for kids who aren't as steady or confident with jumping. (I feel compelled to mention that while a trampoline is awesome for providing stimulation, we've found that it can also sometimes trigger overstimulation, which is never fun. Use with caution. ;)
3. Vibrating/Massager Toys
Vibration can be really soothing and regulating to an overstimulated child, and simple handheld mini massager toy can fulfill this need. It does provide some pretty intense input, so I always let Daniel take the lead with turning it on and off and also with where on his body he wants to put it. (For instance, he loves to put it on his face, but if I put it on his back, he squirms away.) We own this massager by Homedics, pictured to the right—and I can vouch that it has held up really well to heavy usage for several years now. They're also made in kid-friendly designs to look like animals such as a bug and a turtle. We haven't personally tried any plush vibrating toys, but I imagine they would work really well for a kiddo who doesn't prefer the sensation of hard plastic on their skin.
4. Squishy/Fidget Toys
Sometimes you've just got to have something fun to keep your hands busy! These squishy types of fidget toys (I can't figure out a better way to describe them) are fun for role-playing and using with shaving cream, or simply for holding and squeezing. The multiple textures they provide can be really satisfying tactile input for someone who needs that kind of stimulation. I prefer things like these OgoSoft Balls and squishy frogs (or even light-up squishy frogs!). There's also the light-up starburst ball variety, which can be really fun for playing catch. We also have this tangle therapy toy, and the hairy tangle junior looks amazing!
5. Hat with Built-In Headphones
The "headphone hat" is a tool Daniel was gifted by my in-laws which we have used very frequently since receiving it. (Thanks, again!) It's a beanie with built-in headphones which can be plugged into any device (Mp3 player, portable DVD player, cell phone, etc.) and used just as regular headphones are. This can be helpful if your child regularly listens to white/brown/pink noise to help him concentrate on schoolwork, if he uses at-home music therapy for sensory integration, or if he needs to listen to loud music to help him fall asleep at night. For kids who generally avoid auditory stimulation, a headphone hat can be used while in noisy, crowded, or overwhelming places to provide alternate (calming) auditory input.
I find these headphone hats to be particularly useful because unlike traditional ear buds or other kinds of headphones, Daniel has been able to put the hat on with little to no assistance (beginning around age 2) so I'm not concerned about him breaking the headphones out of frustration. I can't find the specific one we have on Amazon, but they come in various beanie styles (plain solid colors, with a brim, cabled), which seems to make the hat have a pretty universal fit—for young kids through adults.
Stay tuned for Products for Sensory Regulation, Part Two: Calm Me Down!
All the product recommendations in this post are 100% my own opinion and I haven't been paid by any of the companies that make these items to promote their products. The links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you purchase an item through one of my links, I will receive a tiny percentage of the revenue to help support this website at no cost to you. Please see my full disclosure policy for more information.