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Making Day Care Drop-Off Easier: Tips For Parents Of Children With Sensory Processing Issues

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Navigating intense emotions during day care drop-off can be hard for any parent, but the experience may be especially tense and emotional for parents who have children with sensory integration issues. Luckily, there are tools and supplies that you can use to make the process easier. Take a look at these tips:

1. Dress your child for success.

The key to a successful day care drop-off starts almost as soon as your child wakes up. Ideally, you should rouse your child with plenty of time to get dressed and eat breakfast at a comfortable rather than breakneck pace.

When dressing your child, keep his or her sensitivities in mind. Choose natural materials, elastic waistbands and clothing that allows your child to move easily. Most importantly, however, pay attention to how the clothing makes your child feel and adjust as needed.

If your child is distracted by an annoying seam, scratched by a tag, or otherwise distracted and annoyed by his or her clothing, it can make it even harder for him or her to stay calm during drop-off. However, if he or she feels physically comfortable, it will be easier for him or her to remain emotionally comfortable and ready for the day.

2. Choose a day care with a low child-to-provider ratio.

A hectic environment, full of kids running and screaming, can be extremely agitating to a child with sensory integration issues. To help keep your child calm both during drop-off and throughout the day, choose a day care center with a lower child-to-provider ratio.

This helps create a relatively "controlled" rather than chaotic environment, and having ample numbers of child care providers on hand makes it easier for your child to seek help staying calm as needed.

3. Create a calming corner.

If the day care you select doesn't already have a low-sensory calming zone, help them see the importance of having one, and help them create it. Imagine a tent your child can slip into and have a moment of peace when the rest of the day care seems too chaotic.

You can stock it with pillows made of interesting fabric and a few books, or you can simply put a heavy weight blanket in it. Research shows that weighted blankets can help kids with sensory integration issues learn to regulate their emotions and calm down more easily.

4. Pack fidget toys.

Kids with sensory integration issues can get easily overwhelmed and need a moment away in a calm corner as described above. However, in other situations, they may not receive enough sensory stimulation and can get very fidgety or even anxious.

To help your child with that effect, pack a few fidget toys with him or her. A bit of putty that your child can toy with as the childcare provider reads or leads them in a lesson is a great idea, but you can also use small vibrating toys or even a "stress" squeeze ball.

If your child has an oral obsession, you can buy necklaces featuring pendants that are safe to chew on.

5. Choose a child care center with sensory stimulation.

Keep your child's needs in mind while searching for the perfect child day care center, and look for one that embraces a range of sensory stimulation.

For example, instead of sitting all day, your child should be allowed to move around and encouraged to go from activity to activity -- many Montessori centers are set up to facilitate this type of approach.

Additionally, instead, of just learning letters by looking and hearing them, your child should be encouraged to trace textured versions of the letters with their hands as they do in Montessori classrooms.

Ask your prospective day care providers what type of sensory experience they plan to provide for your child. If your child knows that his or her sensory needs will be met, it will help your child look forward to the day care experience, and that can help make drop-off easier and less stressful for your child.