By: Laura Petix, MS OTR/LEPISODE 21

Today’s episode is a little different. I’m going to be sharing with you an audio clip from when I was teaching Liliana about her small sensory cup.

For those of you who don’t know, Liliana has anxiety and sensory processing disorder. She is sensory sensitive and gets easily overwhelmed with things like getting wet, getting messy, seams in her socks, sand, and she also gets overwhelmed with a lot of sounds like too many people talking. 

Sensory and Anxiety Overlap

The thing about her sensory issues, is that they are extremely magnified when she is anxious (this is the case for most kids with anxiety and SPD).

When she’s anxious about school or something else going on, suddenly her socks are uncomfortable or our voices are too loud. This is usually the case on school days because she has a lot of school anxiety with some social situations, so school mornings and after school can be tough for us.

Her sensory cup seems to shrink on these days and she is even more overstimulated with sensory input than on other days.

Why you need to teach your child about their sensory cup

One thing I’m always preaching to my clients, my in person clients, my virtual parent coaching clients and the parents in the Sensory WISE Solutions program is that it’s important to have the “sensory cup” talk with your child. You know, as long as they have the language capabilities to understand.

It’s important for your child to understand that their brain processes sensory input differently and it’s even more important for them to understand that there’s nothing wrong with that.

When you teach your child about their sensory cup, it opens up the door for more discussion and gives you both the language to use during a meltdown or before/after a meltdown.

It gives your child the starting tools to self advocate and self regulate when they can say something like “my sensory cup feels a bit full, can you give me space?”. 

I also love using the sensory cup analogy to help educate other family/friends or teachers about your child’s sensory needs in a way that’s inclusive and easy to understand. It’s also a great opportunity to teach your child about your own sensory quirks, because we all have them right? 

Listen to the audio clip next. You’ll hear me explain sensory to her in things that are extremely relevant to her. I suggest doing this for yourself too, make a list beforehand if you do use this with your child. 

You’ll notice she has a hard time with the metaphor of the sensory cup as her nervous system, I didn’t want to get her too stuck on that since she’s still very much a concrete thinker. If you have a younger child this is the part that may lose them, so you can adjust this by just talking about their body feeling overwhelmed or make it general. She’s 4.5 for your reference.

I talk about her worry bug (affiliate link) in the video as well, and this is what we call her anxiety. In the video (which you can’t see),I’m using a lemon as the visual representation and it’s lodged in the cup so it takes up space. 



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Podcast, Sensory Processing, Social/Emotional Skills


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Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

I’m an enneagram 6, so my brain is constantly moving. My OT lenses never turn off and I can’t “un-see” the sensory and other developmental skills that go in to literally every activity. I love taking what I see and breaking it down into simple terms so parents can understand what goes into their child’s behavior and skills.

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