Helping the Sensory Child Thrive

Is your child struggling to participate in family life?

An “at the end of her rope” mom once said to me, “our son is holding our family hostage.” The stress and tension in the home were weighing heavy on mom, dad and older siblings.

While that sounds pretty dramatic, it is in fact a scene that plays out in families quite commonly, and perhaps even more now during the Covid-19 pandemic. This mom went on to tell me that her young son was loving, big hearted, and smart, as well as controlling, manipulative, prone to frequent temper tantrums and had a hard time keeping friends, and playing a role in family life as a team member and not dictator. With a deeper dive into the consultation, it was revealed that this young child was also hyper-sensitive to loud noises and rough clothing, and loved to cuddle and build things. What the mom sensed but didn’t really know, was that her son wasn’t a troubled child with behavior issues – but that something more was going on that made the world a harder place for him to thrive in. This child was a sensory child.

To be fair, we all are “sensory”, in as much as we all take in and process the sensory input we are constantly receiving. But, and this is big, when there is a “glitch” in the sensory processing systems , the results can be stressful on the brain, resulting in challenging behaviors – a child who is harder to parent and finds it hard to thrive in social environments.

Sensory processing skills develop differently for each child.

underlying sensory processing issuesSometime between the ages of two and three, children begin to develop the ability to extend their attention span and follow an external plan – skills vital to social emotional growth. If, during this time, a child seems to be struggling in this area of development, there may be underlying factors impeding the process. We are all wonderful and unique in how our brain grows and develops. Different speeds and different strengths and challenges do occur along the journey. Sensory processing challenges can result in outbursts, tantrums, an unwillingness to socialize, go to school or play by the rules, and may be a precursor for learning or emotional challenges in the school aged child. We encourage parents that believe their child may be struggling in these areas, to get early support.

Helping the sensory child thrive, not just survive.

When we know why a child is struggling we can modify, adapt and create an individual plan that sets up the child for emotional, social and learning success. An occupational therapist utilizing a sensory processing approach, can assess a child to identify the underlying sensory processing challenges. At that point, an individualized therapeutic strategy will be created that will address those challenges, and build the child’s self-regulation, joint attention, and promote imitation and shared reciprocal play.

It is critical to understand why a child’s nervous system is struggling to calm and regulate, listen and participate, and to empathize and relate successfully to others. The occupational therapist can help parents to identify and implement strategies that will build their child’s regulation, joint attention, attunement and engagement in the relationships and activities of the family, building a foundation for lifelong attention and learning.

Early therapeutic intervention can help prevent negative relationships, micro trauma, negative interactions, and stress and frustration within the family unit.

Seeking information to help you parent your individual child is a joyful and wonderful gift. Fear of the unknown often prevents parents from reaching out for more information. We all have a unique and individual sensory processing system. When each member of the family understands the unique sensory needs of the other, peaceful, successful interactions can occur with less challenge and stress.

If your child is struggling, and you are a struggling parent, please reach out to get help. We invite you to come and learn about your own sensory processing systems and those of your children so that your family can create goodness of fit for peace and joy in your family.



When Parents Need More Support With a Child’s Challenging Behavior

What are Behavior Therapy Services?

Parenting Techniques and Family Work

Some children are more challenging to parent than others.  Parents with multiple children say, “It wasn’t like this with my other kids”, or first time parents say, “My friends don’t seem to have the same problems that we are having.”  A set of parenting techniques used with one child may not necessarily work with another, based on individual differences in temperament, behavior and  developmental challenges.

There are research-based techniques that can provide help with the understanding and application of positive behavioral strategies for your child.  Topics include positive discipline techniques, difficult behaviors at home and at school, positive praise and attention, providing effective directions and transitional warnings, how to create and maintain a home-based token system, and effective conflict resolution and problem solving with your child.  For most families, behavior therapy begins with a series of meetings with parents to create a foundation for behavior interventions.

Individual Behavior Therapy – Child Based

Behavior therapy at Child Success CenterOnce at least two parent meetings are complete, our therapists can provide individual behavior therapy for your child.  This therapy is generally play based and uses the Social Thinking® (Attributed to Michelle Garcia Winner as creator of the Social Thinking Methodology) curriculum to explore social concepts.  Individual Behavior Therapy is recommended for children that have a difficult time emotionally regulating in a group, separating from parents, or require more individual attention in learning and practicing social concepts than they would in a group setting.  Once a child has completed between 4-12 individual sessions, it may be recommended they practice their skills in a therapeutic two-person play session, or a group setting.  During these sessions, occasionally parents may be asked to join in on part of the session.

How Does Behavior Therapy Help at Home and at School?

Each child and family is different, and requires different techniques and tools.  The number of sessions above, indicate the average numbers of sessions for behavior intervention.  In order for behavior to change and generalize between settings, it is important to have effective communication between the adults in your child’s life.  The more consistent all of the adults in a child’s life are, the faster change is able to happen.  Being consistent becomes the most challenging part of behavior therapy for parents.  Receiving behavior therapy interventions can be equated as having a personal trainer at the gym. They hold you accountable for the behavior “work outs” that your family is going through, and provide support during the difficult times when you want to throw in the towel.  Once a positive behavior system that works for your child is in place at home, often times that same or similar system can be implemented in school to support your child.

Learn more about Behavior Therapy at Child Success Center.

This program, including its teacher or leader, is not affiliated with, nor has it been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by Michelle Garcia Winner and Think Social Publishing, Inc.


Is Your Child "ready" for Kindergarten?

You have a child in kindergarten and it’s time for the first round of parent teacher conferences.

kindergarten readiness

Do you feel excited to hear about how your child is doing at school or are you a bit nervous? Are you ready to guide your child’s learning experiences this year along with their teachers? 

This year I am both a parent of a kindergartner and the Director of a development and learning center. For myself and all the other parents, September was a long month filled with first days of school, back to school nights, challenges with what to pack for lunch so your child will eat, early mornings and building of new friendships. It is also the time that many schools schedule parent teacher meetings to begin the process of sharing and gathering information about your child.

I recently had my conference and I will tell you that if we had sent our son to kindergarten last year it would have been a very different conversation. My son is a May birthday and a year ago, even with a play based, multi-sensory approach to learning that he had been exposed to at Child Success Center in the “Get set for Kindergarten” program and through his school, he was just entering the very beginning stages of interest, desire and ability to understand the 2 dimensional written world of letters, words and print.  At 5.4 years of age last September he was a sweet, sensitive child whose brain was not ready for kindergarten in some ways and very ready in others. He, at that time, was struggling to write his name and draw. His peers were already doing that and showing interest in letters. My son was building the San Pedro harbor out of blocks and the Eifel Tower out of Magna Tiles. Some would say that is fine. While there is nothing wrong with that he wasn’t gravitating towards play based activities that would help him build foundational learning processes for reading and writing. Such activities encompass a large part of a child’s school day and include rhyming, identifying differences in the sounds that letters make, matching a sound and symbol, identifying the name of letters and beginning to write them, drawing and controlling the pencil.  At that time, my son wasn’t quite ready.

Over the past year we chose to enroll him in a developmental Kindergarten program at Circle of Children and he participated in a weekly kindergarten readiness class followed by a Kindergarten readiness camp over the summer at Child Success Center. He loved all of his experiences as they were presented in a play based approach and provided him with just the right challenge to learning.

So back to the teacher conference… I was able to walk away feeling happy and calm that my son is now ready to learn, excited to learn, has the foundation to learn and the capacity to learn. Most of all, he sees learning as fun. He sees himself as a reader and loves to handwrite. As an Occupational therapist and his mother I am very proud of his beautiful dynamic pencil grasp!!

Moving from a 3D world of playing with Magna tiles to the 2D world of reading and writing is not easy for many children.

We know that the Center for Disease Control states that 16.7% of children have a diagnosed learning and/or developmental challenge and we also know that many children struggle with undiagnosed challenges. Many behaviors such as being impulsive, aggressive, controlling, avoidant, shy, silly, disinterested, immature or having a short attention span, are really a child struggling with the processing capacity to do the activity that is being asked of them. They may be having a hard time taking in the information from their environment, making sense of it quickly and efficiently and producing the desired or required successful response. Many children excel in their natural ability to remember what they see or hear and many struggle with attention, memory, visual and or auditory processing and sensory motor processing.  It is time to look at behavior through a different lens and promote early detection and support for our children.

All human beings have a brain that processes some information easily and other information not so easily. Is your child a visual leaner or an auditory learner? Does he seem to learn better if he is moving? The human brain processes uniquely and we need to strive to understand our children’s natural capacities to learn. Some children will require extra support along the way. This is where individualized and specific help from trained learning specialists such as occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and educational therapists can prove to be beneficial.  We as parents need to read the signs and be open to exposing our children to the teaching methodologies that will support their inherent desire to learn, setting them up for a positive relationship with learning.

Is your child ready for Kindergarten? Is he/she exhibiting behaviors that are troubling and disruptive? Early intervention begins with a proper assessment. For more information on the assessment, therapeutic and Kindergarten Readiness programs offered by Child Success Center, please click here.

Some things to look for in the “Kindergarten-ready” child:

  • Follows words left to right and top to bottom
  • Understands that words are separated by spaces in print
  • Recognizes and can name all upper and lower case letters of alphabet
  • Demonstrates basic knowledge of letter sound correspondence by producing primary sound made by most consonants
  • Holds a pencil with an adult grasp – 3 fingers with control of the pencil from the fingers


Child Success Center
2023 S. Westgate Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Call 310-899-9597 to access our “warm” line.
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