Summer is a great time to enjoy sports! Whether it’s going to a Bear’s pre-season game at Soldier field, a ball park, or even a sibling’s soccer game, sporting events come with a large variety of sensory experiences. This can be a great part of the event, or one that makes some children want to run for the hills. If your child has sensory processing difficulties, you may need to prepare your child (and be prepared!) for what’s ahead.
Here are some sensory tips for kiddos whose ideal Saturday may not be spent cheering in a roaring crowd at a sporting event:
For the child with auditory sensitivities:
- Bring along noise canceling headphones or ear plugs to help drown out the loud sounds.
- Tell your child when to expect a loud buzzer so they can cover their ears (e.g. watch the clock count down at the end of a quarter/half/period).
- Give them “quiet breaks” where you take them to a quieter part of the stadium/arena, like the bathroom or concessions, to allow them to regulate.
For child who just can’t stop moving:
- Give them movement breaks! Let them walk up and down the stairs and time them to see how fast they can do it; take them with you when you’re going to get food or to the restroom.
- Give them a wiggly cushion seat that allows them to wiggle while still staying seated.
- Make sure to incorporate a lot of movement activities before the event to help them be able to sit longer (e.g. animal walks, wall pushes, hokey pokey)
- Let them stand. Some kids can pay attention better when they’re allowed to stand. Let them stand at their seat or find an area where they are allowed to watch while standing.
For a child who is sensitive to tactile input:
- Let them be comfortable. If they insist on wearing a particular type of sock or their shirt inside out, this is not the time to say no (within reason). Allow them to be as comfortable as possible so there are no meltdowns in the middle of the 2nd
- Let them sit in the middle of the family; some children are sensitive to light touch and may become upset if they are constantly being brushed by passers-by while sitting on an aisle.
- Wear long sleeved lycra shirt: rushing through crowds bring along a lot of unwanted light touch. Wearing-sleeved shirts (i.e. Under Armour) can help lessen that aversive sensation.
For a child sensitive to visual input:
- Bring sunglasses. Even if the event is indoors, the bright lighting may be overwhelming if they are exposed to it for long periods of time.
- Bring a hat. A jacket with a hood also works and gives the option of blocking out bright lights and other distractions.