Non-traditional ways to measure progress in a sensory kid
So you do the heavy work, you do the home program your OT gives you and follow all the suggestions from the top parenting podcasts, but you still feel like your child isn’t making progress with their sensory processing skills.
“But it doesn’t work for my child.”
“I’ve been practicing for weeks, they still won’t do it.”
“Nothing’s changed, I don’t think it’s working.”
This is so common and something I hear often with parents, and have often thought myself.
Keep reading to find out helpful alternatives to measuring progress and how you can reframe your child’s progress to notice more of it.
Why Isn’t it Working?
Parents try the language, the sensory strategies, EVERYTHING that the experts say to do…. but why isn’t it working?
It could be for a lot of reasons. Sensory processing challenges are complicated and can’t be addressed in a vacuum. Context and environment directly impact your child’s sensory processing abilities, which means if they had a hard time sleeping last night, are getting over an illness, changed caregivers, etc- then that could impact their regulation that day/week/month and thus slow down, delay, or even back-track the progress they have made.
I remember feeling this same way and realizing that I was only looking at progress in terms of whether or not she took a bite, or if we got through a day without a meltdown. I was so blinded by these arbitrary “tokens of achievement” that I didn’t realize that I was making progress all along, and that these strategies were WORKING, but maybe not in the same sense that I had intended.
What are some other ways to measure progress?
In my experience, progress really does come in all shapes and sizes. Ask yourself some of these questions when you’re trying to notice progress in your child’s sensory processing abilities.
1) Is my child more willing to try new things? Even the tiniest improvement in their willingness to try something new is a good sign that progress is taking place! It doesn’t matter if they actually try it or not – the first step is already there.
2) Are they expressing their wants/needs/feelings better? Rather than jumping straight to tantrum or meltdown mode, if your child is able to directly articulate these things to you, this means they have a better grasp of their emotional needs. Even being able to express discomfort or dislike of something is a great step!
3) Are they more flexible and open to changes? Rather than getting completely dysregulated from an item out of place or a sequence of the night routine out of order, if your child is more flexible or more resilient after these changes, this is progress!
4) Is your child more open to talking about their challenges? Is your child comfortable sharing why something bothers him or her? Do they open up after a meltdown or sensory problem? These are all excellent signs that they are learning better how to process their emotions.
5) Developing a stronger connection or trust with caregivers/educators: If you notice your child’s ability to open up and be more comfortable with other caregivers and teachers around them, this is also a step in the right direction.
Progress I’ve noticed in my own child’s sensory processing abilities
Even though Liliana still needs a considerable amount of support for regulating her emotions, persevering through tasks, and tolerating new environments, I have noticed that she:
1) Requires less encouragement from me to try new things
2) Has more language/confidence in her ability to express why she doesn’t like something
3) Is more flexible when things don’t go her way (yes, she still complains but it’s not as huge of a deal as it once was)
To me, these are all signs that progress is being made, even if at times it doesn’t feel like it. Just keep going! Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged just because you haven’t yet hit those traditional markers of achievement with your child. As they say, slow and steady wins the race!