Likes and Dislikes
Sensory integration differences often express themselves in terms of strong likes and dislikes, and this is a neutral area in which you can talk about your child's particular ways of processing sensory integration without dwelling on problems. Make a list with your child of the things she absolutely loves — clothes that are bright or soft, tight or loose; foods that are hot or cool, chewy or smooth; smells that are spicy or sweet; loud music or dim lights or active games or quiet reading.
Share what you've learned about how hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity in each of our senses governs these strong likes and dislikes. Help your child pinpoint what special thing about her sensory system might cause some of these powerful feelings.
Apply those same understandings to your child's strong dislikes. What does he absolutely hate? The smell of a particular soap? The way his sheets feel when you forget to put the softener in? Certain tastes or textures of food? A noisy house, or a too-quiet one? Discuss how sensory integration differences might figure into those strong negative reactions. Explain that all of these things are reflections of the way he processes the world — not bad, not good, just unique.
When discussing your child's sensory likes and dislikes, he may say something that hurts your feelings. Maybe he hates your scent or your cooking, or something you've given him sets his senses off. Try to remain positive and not let your feelings get in the way. Your child needs to know that it's safe to share anything with you.
Your child might enjoy playing sensory “detective” for other family members, too. Discuss your own sensory preferences, and try to guess about those of other people your child knows. Almost everyone has some strong like or dislike that's well known to friends and family. These can make the basis of an interesting and positive discussion with your child about the way sensory differences affect everyone.
If your child enjoys this, you might make a game of analyzing fictional characters and attributing sensory-related motivations to their activities. When reading a book or watching a television show together, ask your child what sensory issues might be motivating a character. For example, you could ask questions like these:
Is Goldilocks so oversensitive to touch that things seem too hot or too cold, too soft or too hard?
Does the princess from “The Princess and the Pea” have a huge tactile oversensitivity problem?
Does the unnamed character in Green Eggs and Ham refuse to eat because of the color, or the smell?
Does Sam I Am ignore the other character in Green Eggs and Ham because of issues with auditory processing?
Have fun and get silly with it. All of this will make the topic of sensory integration less threatening and more empowering for your child.