Baby does not like kisses.
Sensory explanation: this is not that uncommon, as for a sensitive person kisses give an unexpected and variable tactile input, as well as close proximity to a person which may also bring strong smells and a rapid change in visual information. Then there is the variety of a wet or dry kiss… infants have a tactile system still maturing and learning to process all the different forms of tactile input alongside other sensory systems and sometimes facial receptors will not mature at the same rate as other receptors in the body and as a result, a kiss can be uncomfortable or for some even feel painful.

Ideas to help:

  • Respect this as a true sensory difference and be firm with others in also respecting and honouring this. Affection can, and should, be shown in many other ways from cuddling, singing and rocking to talking and playing, giving the tactile system longer to develop at its own pace.
  • Offer regular opportunities for full body tactile play in different mediums. This will help the overall system process input. If different areas are sensitive, work up gradually to involving the whole body.
  • A great alternative can be to place your cheek next to the child’s cheek. If this closeness is accepted, the next step can be to move your jaw up and down which may be more tickly than anything.
  • Regular doses if deep pressure touch to the head and face can be helpful, just be careful and watch cues closely as it is a sensitive area.
  • Try vibrating toys specifically for the mouth and also to be held on the face or head.
  • Try kissing the back of the baby’s hand before working up to the face. Wherever it is, a firm, relatively brief kiss is likely to be tolerated best.

Avoids facing in when held and prefers facing outwards
Sensory explanation: this preference can be due to one or more sensory factors- vestibular, tactile or olfactory. Your baby may not be able to tolerate backwards movement yet and instead need to see where she is going. She may be avoiding the lighting brushing touch of hair and garments. Any smells (e.g. Deodorant, hair styling products) will also be less strong.

Ideas to help:

  • Its ok; if this is the preference and it isn’t vastly uncomfortable for you, just chalk it up to one of those things.
  • For times when facing in is more necessary, for safety or practicality, try and determine why it is not tolerated well. If it is smell try using unscented products. If it is touch, tie hair back and wear snug clothing that will not flap, tickle or irritate.
  • If the preference seems to be related to visual (or indeed, social needing to see what is going on to be able to learn to draws his or her own predications rather than 100% unpredictability) try and make as many opportunities for this as possible.

Avoids eye contact or shifts gaze
Sensory explanation: eye contact is often misunderstood. When a baby has difficulty making/maintaining it, is often a sign of overstimulation rather than an underlying neurological condition or problem with the eyes. If the nervous system is in a state of dysregulation, the baby will be unable to force eye contact as it is too overwhelming and thus painful for him or her. Fleeting or shifting gaze apply to this also as they try to regulate different states and make connections; with a lot of information flooding in, one or more system or behavioural reaction will have to ‘give’ to allow the brain to continue sorting and not entirely panic. It can be particularly difficult for premature babies who are most at risk for over-registering multi-sensory input.

Ideas to help:

  • Use this as a signal for how regulated and comfortable a baby will be at any given movement. It is likely eye contact will be best at times of relaxation and when the baby self-regulates at an optimum level. Like many things, age and experience will help hugely. If your baby or child does seem overwhelmed, a short period of ‘time off’ (that is, time to switch off and calm, as opposed to a punishment) may help the brain re-set.
  • During times of lack of contact, increase full body pressure touch and place baby in full body flexion as long as touch/human contact are tolerated.
  • Decrease auditory and visual input where possible.
  • Take note of your proximity to their face, and back off to see if that helps.

Baby shuts down in social situations outside of the home.
Sensory explanation: social situations outside, especially in the community and in unfamiliar environments outside the comfort of the home, offer an extreme amount of unpredictable, unexpected and unfamiliar input from a multi-sensory point of view. Even what we think of nice (hugs, kisses, being passed around new family members, friends or benevolent strangers) can be an assault on the senses. Shutting down is a coping strategy for the nervous system when the incoming input is too much to handle.

Ideas to help:

  • Keep this in mind anytime you are outside of the home and monitor the amount of input and see if you notice a particular pattern and trigger.
  • One of the most overwhelming forms of input is the social interaction input. Simply explain to others that your baby/child is very sensitive and ask they honour and limit direct social interaction until you, as the caregiver whom knows the child best, motions otherwise. This is something which will improve, but early understanding will go a long way for the whole family.
  • When in the community, try using a baby sling or carrier if practical. This will provide calming and regulating input as well as of course keeping baby close to you for comfort and being able to monitor interaction.
  • A stroller or carrier covered up can be helpful.
  • Provide additional calming sensory tools, such a favourite toy, vibrating toy, pacifier.
  • Try a large hat or hood, sunglasses or ear defenders to see if the dialling down of some sensory systems eases the social interaction difficulty.

 

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.