Redirection can be a safe and effective way to let your child regulate with what their body is craving in the moment of a Sensory Event that has escalated into a tantrum or meltdown. Trying to move out of a Sensory Events can be frustrating for your child and you. It’s important to practice these activities when your child is not having a Sensory Event. Like a fire drill, we don’t want to only use the tools when we are in an emergency. Practicing and modeling behavior will help your child transition to different activities. If you are only trying these activities when your child is in a Sensory Situation, they may not be able to transition to them.
Try to set aside 5-10 minutes a day to practice modeling responses to frustration. It’s good to “play pretend” that they or you are mad and work through it together.
New Conversation – find a new topic to shift interest to. This often works effectively when crying is the sensory response.
- Incorporate strengths and interests:
- “Let’s talk about cars for a little bit”
- “What would Elsa do in this situation?”
- “Let’s sing Wheels on the Bus.”
New Environment – This often is best for when a child is shutting down and withdrawing.
- Move to somewhere less stimulating, if you can’t safely move the child to another room, be their GPS and guide them to the least stimulating spot in the room (away from doors, windows, or toy bins).
- Switch off music or the TV.
- Find a place with dimmer lights or fewer bright colors so they can focus on you.
- Can’t move to a new place? Offer tools that reduce stimulation like sunglasses or headphones.
New Activity – This can work effectively for physical sensory responses. Whatever action your child is performing as part of this sensory event, try to pick a similar activity to replace it.
- Instead of hitting a person, let them hit a pillow or couch cushion.
- Have you seen the viral “freeze some toys in water and let them chip away at the ice?” Have your child hit and chip away at the ice if you are noticing big arm movements.
- Instead of throwing objects offer cotton balls or ice cubes to throw into the yard.
- Kicking or stomping? Try “animals walks” or kicking a ball.
- Thrashing about? Offer joint compression on shoulders, elbows and knees, or just a big bear hug.
Sometimes our kids don’t have the skills to work through these redirection strategies – yet. Practice makes BETTER (no one is perfect). Be patient with them and yourself. It’s important to note that while screen time may appear to calm behavior, if the behavior re- appears as soon as you try to end screen time, it is not a regulating activity. It can be used as a bridge to get them somewhere else to safely regulate.
Not sure what activity to replace a behavior with? Consult your Occupational Therapist.