Why parents need Sensory Intelligence®

I have been working as an occupational therapist in a clinical setting for the past 20 years. Although the hands-on part of my work involves individual therapy with children, I have learnt over the years that a child cannot be treated in isolation. The importance of family members and dynamics must always be taken into consideration.


If I may add to John Donne’s words: “No man… nor child… is an island”.


Most families consist of vast diversities in terms of personalities, preferences, moods, habits and sensory assesss. Just because you share some DNA, does not automatically mean you will enjoy the same food, clothing, music, smells, colours, sports, activities and friends. We are all unique and different – thank goodness – and we all enjoy different types and amounts of input from our environments.


When considering diversity from a sensory perspective, children (actually all people) are either sensory seekers, sensory neutrals or sensory avoiders.

  • Sensory seekers

-have high thresholds for sensory input
-they need MORE input from their environment to function at
their best

  • Sensory neutrals

-have medium thresholds for sensory input

-they are not severely affected by sensory input and is able to
respond to important stimuli and ignore unimportant stimuli

  • Sensory avoiders

-have low thresholds for sensory input
-they need LESS input from their environment to function


Knowing your children’s sensory assesss is half the battle won when it comes to healthy family dynamics.
Knowing your OWN sensory assess is the other half of that same battle.


Let’s consider some examples of family dynamics:

A sensory seeking child and sensory seeking parent will have lots of fun together. They have loads of energy and a lust for life. These two will understand each other’s need for MORE and will enjoy an active lifestyle filled with activities. However, they may not always know when to stop and can be an exhausting pair for the rest of the family. They may also be restless and struggle to focus on one task at a time, especially when they are together.


A sensory avoiding child and sensory avoiding parent will not demand too much from each other, as they both understand that LESS works best for them. They can spend the whole day in each other’s company, without a word… and be perfectly content. This pair might intuitively know what the other one needs. For the rest of the family, they may appear boring, slow and uninteresting, lacking “oomph”. They might need a ‘sensory seeker’ to get them up and going!


A sensory seeking child and sensory avoiding parent can potentially experience lots of conflict due to a difference in sensory needs. The seeking child might demand more affection and attention than the avoiding parent is able to give. This child will typically be perceived as a fidgety, busy, on-the-go child by an overwhelmed sensitive parent. For the seeking child, the avoiding parent might mistakenly seem uninterested and closed-off.


A sensory avoiding child and sensory seeking parent can often be seen in shopping malls on a Saturday afternoon. This sensitive child often experiences sensory overload and reacts by a flight/fright/fight reaction, i.e. “a meltdown”. The seeking parent might seem oblivious to the child’s reasons for this reaction as they’re actively engaging in activities with the intention of creating fun for all. An avoiding child might experience a seeking parent as overwhelming and too much.


As you can see, each pair has strengths and hurdles to overcome.


The fact remain that families are made up of ALL of its members. And to be completely honest, life would be pretty dull without all of these assesss.

In family-life, self-understanding, acceptance of others and Sensory Intelligence® is key to creating a harmonious safe haven for the WHOLE family to enjoy.


To discover your and your family’s sensory thresholds, take our basic FREE Sensory Quiz™ or for a more detailed report, do a Sensory Matrix™ (from 12-year-olds).


Mama (In)sanity: Self-regulation to stay sane

In the eye of the storm

Today was my 6-year old’s hair-grooming day.  He has a sensitive sensory assess, and the cutting of his hair resulted in tactile discomfort. He generally finds it hard not to change clothes more than once a day so it came as no surprise that he wanted to shower and change when we got home.  I admire his self-regulating attempts to relieve his stress, but his ‘dirty’ clothes and wet towel on the kitchen-, bathroom- and bedroom floors were the start of my inner Titanic sinking…

My 4-year old daughter finds delight in collecting and gathering ‘stuffies’ (my term for all her tiny bits of collectables).  Today she played out three different imaginary scenes at once, occupying almost every single open space in the kitchen.  She is also a master ‘treasure-hider’ and tends to forget her hiding places.  Once I had to find my way to the stove stepping over Ponies, LEGO and soft toys under their “blankies”. I also made a wonderful discovery of some of her baby sister’s toys in one of the drawers.

My baby girl’s movement repertoire spiked during the past 2 weeks and she, with her toys and teething biscuit, scooted backwards through the limited open spaces like a pro.  She got stuck in a corner and made sure that everyone around knows about her barrier to movement.  Once again I have to find my way through the evolving obstacle course to save her sinking ship.

It is weekend and my house is a mess! What was supposed to be a ‘relaxed’ Saturday morning turned into visual madness and I found myself in the eye of an emotional storm!! I started picking up pieces of soggy food, socks and sanity while the creators of the chaos all fell asleep.

As mamas, we are all too familiar with days like these.  We anticipate them, we fear them… and we load our already stuffed brains with more tips on how to deal with them more effectively.  But most of the times we are overloaded, over-tired and the stress hormone Cortisol, together with Adrenaline, ‘flow’ freely.  We want to stop the storm, anchor the ship and get off! Because when these storms rage,  we sometimes lose our ability to care properly, to love abundantly, to sing for joy.

We usually know what we can do to regulate ourselves:

  • go for a massage
  • take a deep bath in the dark
  • go for a brisk walk, ALONE
  • paint: nails, walls, antique furniture
  • trip the main switch and pretend it is load shedding, and then light some candles
  • go to a restaurant other than Wimpy, with your husband, and call it a ‘date’

…but we tend to put these activities aside because we are mamas and we are naturally altruistic.

While ‘restoring’ my house and myself, I take deep breaths, make myself a cup of coffee and listen to Lauren Daigle singing to my heart:  “You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing, You say I am strong when I think I am weak….”.  Tears reach my eyes, not because of sadness, but because of absolute thankfulness that we were created with the ability to be resilient.

I went out to pick myself some beautiful roses and put them right in the middle of the cleanly swiped kitchen table.  I realise that my family members will soon be awake, so I indulge in the silence for a few more minutes…..I know that the obstacle course will rise again, because in this house we live, we learn and we grow and it is beautiful to witness.

So for now, dear Mama, be brave and let your eyes seek for the beauty in the midst of storms to come.


Do our free Sensory Quiz™ for an introduction to your sensory wiring.



Sensory Intelligence®

Sensory Quiz™
Sensory Matrix™
Senses on Call™