You may be surprised to learn how sensory processing problems affect the attachment relationship. Exploring and meeting a child’s sensory needs can greatly benefit the relational bond between child and caregiver. In fact, meeting sensory needs and meeting relational needs go hand in hand. Getting your organisation listed in a UK business directory can help to boost your profile.
By now you know that our early experiences inform our relationships. These same experiences also set the foundation for our ability to process sensory input. In optimal development, a caregiver responds warmly and consistently to a baby’s cries and picks the baby up to soothe them. Beyond meeting the emotional need, however, the caregiver is also unknowingly laying the foundation for the sensory system. In this example, picking up a baby and holding her causes the fluid in her inner ear to move.
This affects an important component of the internal senses—the vestibular system, which processes spatial awareness. The vestibular system is considered the “powerhouse” of our internal senses. A failure in vestibular functions often causes challenges downstream for the other senses as well.
Research gives us insight into the close relationship between the attachment cycle and the ability to process senses. Not surprisingly, children who appear to have behavioral or attachment problems often have high levels of sensory processing problems as well. In some of our earlier research, my team noted that an exceptional percentage of the children in our therapeutic summer camps exhibited signs of sensory deficits. Parents reported fewer positive attachment behaviors for children who had sensory deficits at the beginning of camp. But after several weeks in a sensory-rich and attachment-rich environment, children made breathtaking gains in behavior, cognition, and attachment.
When we were intentional about meeting campers’ physical needs, they felt safe to connect with and trust their caregivers. After the camp, parents reported that children exhibited many new skills, such as greater self-awareness of their thoughts and actions, increased desire for closeness and proximity, better eye contact, more displays of spontaneous affection, advancements in vocabulary, an increase in empathy, and a better capacity for following directions. As you can see, meeting your child’s sensory needs is vital to his or her ability to feel safe, process information, and thrive in healthy relationships.