Areas of Strength
Sensory integration is rarely all bad. Try to think of a way in which your child's sensory differences work to her advantage. Maybe she has an adventurous taste in food that gives her and others pleasure. Maybe she can do homework in a noisy room because she doesn't process sound well. Maybe she adores roller coasters because her vestibular system doesn't register discomfort, or is an intense athlete because she fears no pain. Talk about how these things make her different from others in a good way. Then explain that, like everyone else, the way she processes the information from her senses makes her special.
You can start laying the groundwork for this when your child is young, even before he is able to really understand about sensory integration. Make sure to praise your child as much as possible. Recognize when he's doing something he really enjoys or that seems to make his body feel calmer or more alert. Describe what you see when he's being organized or creative or responsible.
Allow plenty of opportunity for him to do things that bring him satisfaction and success, and point out when others can't do it as well as he can. Frequent positive comments will make your child feel better about himself, reduce his stress level, and give you a platform from which to start building the concept of sensory integration when your child is old enough to understand it.
What if I can't think of any areas in which my child's sensory integration differences are a plus?
Think harder. It will be very beneficial to your child if you can find positive ways to introduce this subject. If you absolutely can't — or if she won't agree with you over what would be considered positive — then introduce some ways in which your own sensory differences are a minus to you.
Your child will have plenty of opportunities to be aware of the negative side of sensory integration. The main purpose of explaining sensory integration disorder will be to help her understand why some things give her such trouble and feel better about her inability to control her reactions in this area.
But you'll want to avoid making your child feel like a victim, beset by a hard-luck disorder that spells nothing but trouble. Instead, teach her to draw on her strengths to compensate for her weaknesses, and enjoy her unique sensory profile for the way it makes her who she is. That's a good way for you to look at things, too.
A good source of ideas for this positive approach to your child's behavior is Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach, by Howard Glasser and Jennifer Easley. The approach includes a constant stream of positive comments toward your child — from simply describing good or neutral things you see your child doing to creating opportunities for him to shine. You'll be surprised how many good things you can find to say when you really concentrate.