Baby dislikes car seats, particularly backward facing ones.
Sensory explanation: riding in the car provides constantly changing vestibular input, from the changing speeds of the moving vehicle, to the turns and curves of the route. Backward facing provides an entirely different sensory experience, not to mention view, which the baby may be struggling with processing. They may also be having trouble tolerating the straps, both by the face and also being constrictive.

Ideas to help:

  • Place blackout shield on the windows. This can help decrease visual input which might have triggered a negative vestibular response.
  • Try a vibrating pillow or toy which may be calming, or at least, distraction or familiar.
  • If using an infant car seat, try a lightweight blanket over the handle to decrease visual input and create a sort of ‘safe tent’.
  • Try a head snuggler to provide support and also deep pressure touch by providing extra stability.
  • Try one of the stick on mirrors to reflect back your reflection, to see if a more immediate view of you or the caregiver is tolerated better. You can also give the baby a piece of your clothing, with your familiar smells on it.
  • If movement is not being tolerated (especially in a range of environments and situations) and does not seem to improve, assessment by a paediatrician or occupational therapist may prove helpful.

Baby dislikes the car at night.
Sensory explanation: if this sensory signal only presents itself at night, it may be due to the change in visual input. The darkness along with the flickering and bright lights of the road lights outside along with the movement of the car may be simply too much or too confusing for the visual system.

Ideas to help:

  • Block out the bright lights and flickering by using window shades.
  • Try using a large hat or a hood for the baby to block out some light.
  • It might be worth trying baby sunglasses, even if it feels dark!
  • Offer other calming tools and distractions; a calming toy, a vibrating toy, gentle music, your voice constantly, a favourite comfort item or pacifier.

Baby has difficulty going outside in the wind and rain; unusually distressed
Sensory explanation: wind and rain are forms of sensory input that can be painful and very comfortable to the tactile system, especially around the face. They are both unpredictable , unexpected and out of the ordinary forms of sensory input that cannot be controlled by the child itself. If the baby or child over-registers in general it can be even more difficult to process and accept. The very young tactile, and overall nervous, system is still learning to accept and process a huge variety of inputs which applies to ALL babies.

Ideas to help:

  • Respect this sensory signal and be sure to cover up the baby with a blanket and appropriate raincover when outside, even when the distress seems to be lessening. The brain is very sensitive and may quickly develop a negative response to memory/sensation even once the tactile system has matured.
  • Try a large brimmed hat, baby sunglasses and/or a hood to decrease sensory input until the nervous systems matures and develops to become more accepting of environmental input and sudden changes.
  • Try to always be prepared and refrain where possible from quick and sudden movements. This can be difficult when suddenly caught in a rainstorm trying to locate shelter!
  • Being proactive and prepared is key.

Baby dislikes being outside in general.
Sensory explanation: being outdoors can be difficult for an infant especially those who are very sensory defensive or over-register sensations. Being outdoors may be unpredictable with weather patterns that cannot be controlled or always predicted and there are frequent loud and seemingly random sounds (car alarms, pedestrian crossings, different volumes and frequencies of human conversation passing). Being in other environments like shopping centres can be very bright and loud with the same pattern of unpredictability and unfamiliarity. If the little one is out the pram/stroller too, the new or unusual tactile sensations can also be difficult to process if they are not used to textures like grass, sand, pebbles, gravel etc. Smells can be overwhelmed and hard to dampen down or ignore if this is an area the child struggles with.

Ideas to help:

  • Use defensive tools appropriately; if it is too bright try sunglasses or a floppy hat. If it is too loud, ear defenders or a snug hat or hood can help. Smell is more difficult; you could try a raincover or blanket to make a tent in the pram or buggy, and inside close to the baby place familiar smelled favoured toys or objects.
  • Try to begin outdoor experiences in a calm quiet place, in the shade if possible.
  • Start introducing these experiences in a baby sling or carrier if this is an option. The extra closeness will be a comfort, as will being close to your voice and heartbeat. The snugness of the sling will also be providing a pressure touch which would be reassuring.
  • If this seems to cause a lot of distress, build these outings up gradually. If outdoors is tolerated better than indoor visits to different places try and respect this where it is practical and possible until the nervous system matures a little more.

 

WEBSITE DISCLAIMER AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY
The information within this section is provided as a resource tool for general advice and recommendations regarding sensory integration and sensory processing development. Sensory enriched activities are beneficial for all children. This website is in no way intended to replace medical intervention or individual therapy. Please consult with your child’s paediatrician therapist for a customized program. The activities suggested on this website require direct supervision. The information on this website is attributed to Angie Voss, OTR.