Mindfulness is the practice of gently directing your attention to the present moment. It involves focusing one’s attention and awareness on the sensory, cognitive, and emotional aspects of the present experience. This can be done through formal meditation or everyday activities.
Mindfulness practices can be particularly beneficial for individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), as they provide tools to manage and cope with sensory challenges. Some techniques of mindfulness include focused breathing, meditation, and yoga.
SPD is a condition that affects how the brain receives and interprets sensory information. It can include information from the senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell, and movement.
SPD is often diagnosed in childhood, but it can persist into adulthood. Multiple signs can signify SPD in adults, such as over- or under-sensitivity to sensory stimuli, difficulty filtering out background noise, sensory-seeking behaviours, poor coordination and balance, sensory overload, meltdowns, etc.
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) can occur alongside other mental disorders, such as ADHD and depression, but it can also happen independently. Some research groups have found that many people with SPD-Sensory Over-Responsive (SOR) symptoms do not have other disorders.
One of our studies found that most children with SPD do not have an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). On the flip side, over three-quarters of children with ASD have significant symptoms of SPD.
Meanwhile, other studies found SPD and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are two distinct disorders that can co-occur. Children with SPD with a sensory-seeking subtype may be more likely to be misdiagnosed with ADHD because their behaviours can be similar to those with ADHD.
SPD and ADHD are both neurodevelopmental disorders but have different causes and symptoms. SPD is a disorder of sensory processing, while ADHD is a disorder of attention and impulse control. An estimated 40-60% of children with SPD also have symptoms of ADHD. However, the two conditions are still distinct and require different treatment approaches.
Multiple approaches to treating SPD
The severity of SPD can vary from person to person, and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. It can manifest in various forms: sensory hypersensitivity, sensory hyposensitivity, and sensory-seeking behaviours. Parents need to be mindful of upcoming new situations for the child so that they can cope with the situation better.
There are a variety of interventions that can help children with SPD manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Some therapies that can help with SPD are Listening Therapy (LT), combination therapy, and complementary therapies, such as the Wilbarger protocol, acupuncture, and time tracking.
Children with SPD who have difficulty paying attention to sensory information can also practice mindfulness techniques. Occupational therapists can help these individuals learn how to focus on the present moment and become more aware of their sensory environment. This can help them reduce mind wandering and distraction and improve their overall quality of life.
In addition to mindfulness techniques, occupational therapists can incorporate information about sensory processing styles into relaxation and mindfulness-based interventions. This can help individuals with SPD understand how their sensory sensitivities impact their daily lives and develop strategies to cope with them.
Mindfulness techniques help children cope with SPD
Mindfulness can be taught and practised to help children with SPD cope with their challenges.
It can help children increase their awareness of their sensory environment, develop coping mechanisms for dealing with sensory overload, increase their self-awareness and self-regulation, and improve their focus and attention. Teaching mindfulness to children means teaching them life skills that will help them manage anxiety, increase happiness, and cope with stress.
When teaching mindfulness to children, choosing the right time and place is essential. Children should be calm and ready to engage in the activity. It is best to wait for a quieter time if they are hyperactive or not focused.
Make sure the environment you are in is comfortable and inviting. You can dim the lights, light candles, or play calming music.
Before teaching mindful techniques, remember to explain mindfulness to your child. You can show them how to do mindful activities together and make them a positive part of their day.
Many different types of mindfulness activities can be done with children. Some famous examples include mindful breathing, mindful eating, mindful movement, and mindful colouring and crafts.
There are many different ways to practice mindful breathing. After your child is comfortable, practice breathing slowly, closing or opening their eyes, and asking them to take notice when their chest moves when they breathe.
Mindful eating is a great way to introduce new foods to children and help them develop healthy eating habits. It can also help children learn to slow down and enjoy their food.
Affirmation cards as daily reminders for mindfulness
There are a lot of mindful toys, tools, and books on the internet that you can buy to support your children. One of them is a deck of affirmation cards.
Affirmation cards are small cards with positive statements or affirmations written on them. Children can use these cards to focus on their thoughts and feelings and remind themselves of their strengths and abilities.
Affirmation cards from GRADO, for example, include a combination of affirmations, questions, reflections, and ideas surrounding the main topic of the deck. Children can use them as a mindfulness tool in various ways, such as using them as a book, picking a random card as a daily reminder, and discussing topics with others.
The Live a Fulfilled Life and Ojas decks are two tools that can introduce mindfulness. Reading the cards can help you or your child connect with their inner selves and prepare for meditation, which can help you or your child achieve a more balanced and fulfilled life.
Reading a few cards before meditation can help you connect with your inner self and prepare for a mindful moment. This can help you feel calmer, more present, and more disconnected from your ego, allowing you or your child to immerse in the experience fully.
If your child struggles to understand the cards, explain what these colourful, artsy cards mean and how they can help them.