This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy.
Children with low-arousal sensory systems may respond either by actively seeking out more input (“sensory seeekers”) or appearing sluggish and un-motivated.
Children with “Low Arousal” Sensory Systems:
- May be difficult to get moving in the morning
- Are described as “daydreamers” by their teachers
- Find it difficult to focus during seated activities
- May have a slow reaction time and a low energy level.
- Bump into others; no concept of limbs in space
How to Help a Low-Arousal Child:
Children who present these symptoms may need activities that allow for proprioceptive, vestibular and/or tactile input. These three sensory systems work together to regulate the child’s energy level which allows them to focus and attend. It is important to keep in mind that each child is different. It may take some detective work and observations in multiple settings to determine the strategies that are most effective for them.
Proprioception (Movement and Resistance, Oral-Motor)
“Heavy work” is important in order to give the child the sensory input they are seeking. Typically, people want to let the child run around to “get rid of all their energy,” but what the child actually needs is some good ol’ manual labor to really give them the resistance they are looking for.
- Activities you can consider are: animal walks, the wheelbarrow crawl, or a pillow crash.
- Some tools and equipment to consider: an exercise ball to sit on instead of a chair, a seat disc to place on top of the chair to allow the child to wiggle, a resistance band to tie around the bottom of the child’s desk to allow for movement of their legs, and a sensory tunnel.
Vestibular (Movement and Balance)
Information comes into the vestibular system through the inner ear. The vestibular system influences our balance and equilibrium. It is how we are able to hold our body in position and coordinate our movements. So, kids who are off-balanced may struggle with certain movements. They may enjoy spinning excessively and do not exhibit a concern for safety. These kiddos may require a more organized activity in order to give them the movement and balance they need.
- Activities you can consider are: jumping on a mini trampoline, somersaults, walking on a balance beam, jumping rope, and bouncing on pogo-sticks.
- Some tools and equipment to consider are: a T-stool instead of a chair, a scooter board, or a sensory swing.
Some children may require a variety of tactile input than others to keep them awake and alert.
- Activities you can consider are: playing in a sensory table that includes multiple objects (sand, sandpaper, feathers, etc.) to allow for a variety of tactile experiences, practicing handwriting with sandpaper or shaving cream.
- Some tools and equipment to consider are: Jelly BeadZ, hand fidgets or stress balls to squeeze, a Chew necklace or a chewable pencil topper, or a brushing set.
Question of the Day:
- What are some alerting strategies that work on you or your children?