The Sensory-Sensitive Child: Practical Solutions for Out-of-Bounds Behavior

The Sensory-Sensitive Child: Practical Solutions for Out-of-Bounds Behavior

by Karen A. Smith PhD, Karen R. Gouze PhD


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The Sensory-Sensitive Child: Practical Solutions for Out-of-Bounds Behavior by Karen A. Smith PhD, Karen R. Gouze PhD

In a book likely to transform how parents manage many of their child's daily struggles, Drs. Smith and Gouze explain the central and frequently unrecognized role that sensory processing problems play in a child's emotional and behavioral difficulties. Practicing child psychologists, and themselves parents of children with sensory integration problems, their message is innovative, practical, and, above all, full of hope.

A child with sensory processing problems overreacts or underreacts to sensory experiences most of us take in stride. A busy classroom, new clothes, food smells, sports activities, even hugs can send such a child spinning out of control. The result can be heartbreaking: battles over dressing, bathing, schoolwork, social functions, holidays, and countless other events. In addition, the authors say, many childhood psychiatric disorders may have an unidentified sensory component.

Readers Will Learn:

  • The latest scientific knowledge about sensory integration
  • How to recognize sensory processing problems in children and evaluate the options for treatment
  • How to prevent conflicts by viewing the child's world through a "sensory lens"
  • Strategies for handling sensory integration challenges at home, at school, and in twenty-first century kid culture

The result: a happier childhood, a more harmonious family, and a more cooperative classroom. This thoroughly researched, useful, and compassionate guide will help families start on a new path of empowerment and success.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060527181
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/03/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 633,010
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Karen A. Smith, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, has worked exclusively with children and their families for the past sixteen years. A school counselor in Athens, Georgia, she has consulted to Head Start and Early Intervention programs for young children and is an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Georgia. She and her family live in Athens, Georgia.

Karen R. Gouze, Ph.D., has been director of Clinical Psychology Training in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago for the past nineteen years. She also holds an appointment as assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She and her family live in River Forest, Illinois.

Read an Excerpt

The Sensory-Sensitive Child

Practical Solutions for Out-of-Bounds Behavior

Chapter One

Making Sense of Our Senses

We live on the leash of our senses.
-- Diane Ackerman A Natural History of the Senses

Your brain is all over your body.
-- Evan, at age 6

We experience the world through our senses -- sounds, sights, tastes, smells, physical sensations. A 7-year-old gets a present in the mail from her grandparents and her first comment is "It smells like Grandma's house." We, too, remember our grandmother's house -- the smells of chicken soup, onion and garlic, aging plaster and musty incinerators; the caress of cool air on our skin as we entered her dark hallway from the steamy outdoors; the patterns of the wallpaper; the muted colors of the tile; the sounds of life behind the apartment doors. We cannot separate our grandmother from our sensory memories of her. All our transactions with the world are mediated through our senses.

There is even more of the world that we do not experience. It is blocked out before reaching our awareness. Everything need not be seen, heard, or smelled. When it comes to knowing our world -- making sense of it, you might say -- less is often more. In her beautifully written book A Natural History of the Senses Diane Ackermanexplains,

The world is a construct the brain builds based on the sensory information it's given, and the information is only a small part of all that's available ... The body edits and prunes experience before sending it to the brain for contemplation or action. Not every whim of the wind triggers the hair on the wrist to quiver. Not every vagary of sunlight registers on the retina. Not everything we feel is felt powerfully enough to send a message to the brain; the rest of the sensations just wash over us, telling us nothing.

If it weren't for this pruning and editing, this process of simplification, we couldn't function. Our brains would be awash in a sea of confusion. The world would come flooding in on us, relentless and incomprehensible. We would rush to defend ourselves at the snap of a twig or the breath of a breeze. We'd be continuously distracted and disoriented, and we quite literally would not know whether to come or go. Fortunately, we only apprehend what we really need to know. The rest of it escapes our consciousness.

Getting Started

Imagine a typical morning. When the alarm goes off, you get out of bed, take a shower, dress yourself, and begin breakfast. You perform this simple set of tasks without any conscious awareness of the complex interplay between brain and body that moves you along. You are on automatic pilot, already listing in your head the many things you need to accomplish that day. You don't give a thought to the abundance of sensory cues that guide you from your bed to the breakfast table. Nor do you think about the myriad distractions that you unwittingly ignore.

First, the sound of the alarm explodes into the silence of your sleep. Loud, jarring, it carries a message -- it is time to start the day. As you rouse yourself, you become aware of other sensations: the sun on your face, the shadows playing on your bedroom walls in the early morning light, perhaps the muffled sounds of your children waking. Your brain tunes out the unimportant sensations: cars honking down the block, a dog barking, birds chirping. You raise your body in bed, effortlessly negotiating the downward pull of gravity as you move from a prone to an upright position and swing your feet to the floor. Again resisting the force of gravity, you stand. The bottoms of your feet touch the floor -- smooth, cool wood, then scratchy, warm carpet, and, in the bathroom, cold, slick tile.

There, your brain is assaulted by different sensations. The glare of the lights, the chill of a morning draft, the sound, pressure, and temperature of the water -- you tune in to these while balancing on one foot to step into the shower. All the while your brain is aware, somewhere, that it must be on the alert for the ring of the telephone or the cry of a child. You feel the soap gliding along your body and the water beating down on your head, helping to waken you. You again balance as you step out of the shower. You dry off and feel the terry rub of your towel on your skin. You grimace at the too-cold water as you brush your teeth and at the tug of knots in your hair as you comb it. There is the sensation of light on the walls and on your skin, the smell of coffee and toast from the kitchen, and the sound of the radio playing in your bedroom.

Outside, morning noises are increasing: buses rumbling, leaf blowers whining, more dogs barking. As you move to get dressed, you scan your closet and drawers and run your fingers through clothes that are soft or stiff, smooth or rough, light or heavy. You make your choices and pull on soft cotton underwear, wool pants, a knit sweater, and your favorite pair of warm socks. You fasten hooks, slip buttons through buttonholes, and lace your shoes, all the while instructing your 5-year-old to start his own morning routine. You notice, in passing, that your pants feel a bit snug. Your sweater smells a bit musty. But your focus stays sharp as your sense of purpose moves you through your morning.

You glance at the digital clock beside your bed and move down the stairs toward the smell of that coffee. Within ten minutes, you have made two lunches, signed a permission slip for your teenager's field trip, and eaten a bowl of crunchy granola laced with sweet strawberries. As you glance at the headlines of the newspaper, your brain automatically filters out the grinding of the garbage truck beyond your kitchen window but instantly tunes in to the whimpers of your baby. Walking into her room ...


Excerpted from The Sensory-Sensitive Child by Karen Smith Copyright © 2007 by Karen Smith. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Carol Kranowitz

“Wise and well-written.”

Sharon A. Cermak

“A ‘must-read’ for parents and professionals. I highly recommend this book.”

Lucy Jane Miller

“A wonderful resource. . .helpful because of the combination of professional expertise and personal experiences—a unique contribution.”

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