I recently "attended" a webinar by the world renown, Professor Winne Dunn on "Sensory Processing and the Impact on Everyday Life". Professor Winnie Dunn is Professor and Chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy Education at the University of Kansas. She is known for her studies about sensory processing in everyday life and has published more than 100 research articles, book chapters and books. Dr Dunn is also well known for being the author/creator of the Sensory Profile (assessment) for adults and children.
During the recent webinar, we looked at case studies of three children - a toddler who had difficulty at bath time and meal times, a 5 year old who would vomit in the car regularly and 3rd grader who was socially isolated. Whilst every child is unique, the webinar prompted me to consider what are the sensory triggers for children when travelling in a car and what solutions can we offer families?
Travelling in a car can be an overwhelming sensory experience! The trip may be five minutes or five hours, yet a child may suffer sensory overload and may react by becoming car sick, scream, kick, try to get out of the vehicle, head bang, cover their eyes or ears, push or hit other people in the vehicle, change body positions, etc.
Motion sickness is generally "thought to take place when there is a mismatch between the information that the brain receives from the inner ear balance mechanism (vestibular system) and what the eyes ‘see’" (Better Health Victoria). You may not have considered motion sickness as a "sensory issue" however, it is clearly a response due to difficulty processing information from two sensory systems.
Have you considered the sensory information your child is processing whilst travelling in a vehicle?
VISUAL: What can your child see during a car trip?
AUDITORY: What can your child hear during a car trip?
PROPRIOCEPTION: What can your child feel (touch pressure) during a car trip?
VESTIBULAR: How is your child moving during a car trip?
ORAL: What does your child do with their mouth during a car trip?
SMELLL: What does your child smell during a car trip?
A child may have different reactions in different vehicles as they may be triggered by sensory stimuli in one vehicle which they do not experience in another vehicle. Different children may respond to the same sensory information in different ways. This means that siblings travelling in the same car may have completely different reactions to the environment that they are in .... which makes parenting even harder!
These sensory considerations for travelling in a car may also be applicable to other vehicles such as buses, trains and boats. There will be a follow up article in the coming weeks with some sensory solutions for the car! Stay connected so you don't miss it! Find Your Kids OT on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and/or subscribe to receive blog posts via email!
Are you doing a road trip these holidays?
Have you considered the sensory triggers when travelling in a car?
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Hi, I'm Cindy and I am an Occupational Therapist. I enjoy working creatively with children to see them reach their potential. Read more about me here.
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Disclaimer: The information on this site is general in nature and should be used for educational and entertainment purposes. The activities are safe for most children, however, you should consult an Occupational Therapist or health professional to address specific movement, sensory or other medical conditions. This blog does not replace formal therapeutic professional advice given by a health professional or medical practitioner. Reviews and endorsements of products will only be made based on my expertise and personal opinion; and deemed worthy of such endorsement. The opinions shared in sponsored content will always be my own and not that of the advertising company or brand. Content, advertising space or posts will be clearly identified if paid, affiliated or sponsored. Affiliate links may be found throughout this website in advertising. This means that if you follow through with a purchase from these links, Your Kids OT will receive a percentage of the sale. Your Kids OT undertakes to meet the requirements of the "Social Media Policy" as published by Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Further information about this policy can be found here.
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