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Tips On Discipline For Children With SPD

Most children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) often struggle with basic everyday tasks while watching their peers perform the same tasks with ease. Remembering this point can help us see how a child with SPD may develop low self-esteem and self-concept,

10 thoughts on “Tips On Discipline For Children With SPD

  • September 9, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    Thank you for some ideas on how to approach ‘calm down time’ and inappropriate behavior. Lots of times my middle child with SPD hurts one of her sisters by accident. Like she was trying to move my 9yr old’s hand from the baby’s face with her foot, and ended up kicking the baby in the nose. Oops. Then she’s weeping puddles, and the baby is squalling all from the back seat of the truck. She doesn’t act out and need to be reprimanded as much as she hurts a sister by accident. So I think calm down time with slime or a puzzle might be a good option, instead of scolding her and letting her run to her room to weep. Thank you so much. We will try it.

    • September 14, 2018 at 6:14 pm

      Hi Annie. Thank you so much for your comment.

      I am so happy that this article helped you in some way. As you know, each of our sensational kids is different and unique so the way we help them cope and deal with situations is individual to each child.

      Feel free to come back and share what you tried and what worked.

      Good luck!

  • November 6, 2018 at 9:38 pm


    My name is Sandy and we have a 5 year old little boy with sensory processing disorder with anxiety. No autism or ADHD etc. This is all very new to us. We are in therapy. Which is helping, ..but I ick we need an occupational therapist. I think I found one. Anyways discipline is the hardest part for my husband and I. We argue everytime when it comes to this. Other than that we are fine. I just found this article and will be trying these for sure. I wish I would have seen this 8 months ago! Husband thinks he’s just being 5 most of the time and won’t listen when I say we need to try this or that etc. Hence the fighting. We both want to help our 5 year old. He’s very very smart, ..but especially when he’s tired everything just seems to be too much for him. I feel bad for him..again your article is wonderful to read

    • November 6, 2018 at 10:06 pm

      Hi Sandy. I’m so glad you came on and shared your story here. That’s how parents of kids like ours find some answers or direction. At least that’s what I’ve always found. 🙂

      Yes, I went through the same thing as well. I had both a ‘seeker’ as well as an ‘avoider’ so discipline could be very frustrating. I was told by their occupational therapist that for children who actively seek out sensory input won’t see a spanking or a tap on the hand as a punishment. They can often confuse it as a reward. Or, alternatively, they may not feel it at all. Yelling at them is the same thing. It can make things worse when the sensory system is out of whack, or it could have them reacting inappropriately in response (eg: laughing, yelling or screaming back, etc.).

      I totally understand what you must be going through right now. It can be upsetting, frustrating and overwhelming, to say the least. And when your partner isn’t 100% on board, or doesn’t see the situation in the same light, it can add to the stress.

      If you’ve found a qualified OT that specializes in SPD and/or sensory issues, you are well on your way to finding answers in all of these areas, including discipline. Because each child who lives with SPD has different symptoms and requires different sorts/levels of the right kind of sensory input, an OT is essential in order to reduce symptoms and guide you in the right direction.

      Hang in there. It can be a very difficult and bumpy ride, but things do get better. Not only for your little guy, but for you and your husband as well. Feel free to come back anytime.

  • December 6, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    Howdy Chynna! Wow. We are just in the beginning of SPD. I am 67 and my wife is 54. 3 years ago we went and rescued our grandson from living on the street in Phoenix Az. He was 10 1\2 mo. old.
    We have custody of him going for adoption. We have no idea what drugs or smoke he was subject to. He was left with total strangers at times. He was put in front of a TV and left there all day. So so sad. Would these things I mentioned cause SPD? We thought he was just a rowdy boy. We wondered and got him checked out because his speech was not coming along. He would not use the potty. He would have screaming sessions. He does listen but it has to be louder than himself. He does look us in the eye. When he wants to. He would hurt other kids so we stay to ourselves. Do you have a book or a recommendation of one. Seems like the OT never has enough time for us to ask all our questions. He is a good boy and is ok when he is outside. He loves to dig holes in our yard. We let him. We have holes all over. We have an indoor sand box that helps so much. Thanks .

    • December 6, 2018 at 9:36 pm

      Hello there, Jack and Jess. WOW! It sure sounds like you have your hands full. There are some very familiar symptoms there. You mentioned that he has an OT working with him. That’s a great step. Has your grandson been properly assessed for SPD? Did the OT give him a diagnosis or Sensory Plan? From your descriptions, it sounds as if he he may have some auditory sensory issues too, which can impact speech and other areas. Another suggestion you might find useful is to have his hearing checked thoroughly just to rule that out.

      Digging is wonderful for vestibular and proprioception input, as well as eye-hand coordination, fine and gross motor skills. Hiding/burying small objects in the holes that he can dig up is fun too. This also helps with textural issues. The indoor sand box is an amazing indoor tool, if you have room for it (and don’t mind the sand everywhere). Another suggestion could be helping him make a rice box if he likes digging and burying. It’s very simple. All you need is a shoebox sized box, fill it up with either rice or small pasta then find tiny toys (like the ones you get in Cracker Jacks or the Kinder Surprises) he can push into the rice/pasta and bury them. Then he can have fun digging them back out.

      As for smoking or other toxins used around him, I’m not sure this would cause SPD but it certainly would intensify certain sensory reactions. I would ask the OT if a full assessment and analysis can be done to get you on the right track in terms of proper treatment. It seems like your grandson’s body is starving for the right kind of sensory input to help him calm his body down. When a child’s sensory integration is impaired, it can make the world a very scary place.

      There are many great books out there. My top advice is to go to the STAR Institute website. That is a wealth of information and you can find direction on many areas, as well as answers to your questions. The Out Of Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz was one of the first books I read on the subject of SPD. Other great books are Raising A Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske and Sensational Kids by Lucy Jane Miller. Feel free to contact me if you want any further information.

      Take good care of yourselves and your precious grandboy. You aren’t alone in your journey.

  • December 12, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    but what about when the 5 yr old spd child has a meltdown and for an hour starts kicking you, punching holes in walls, scratching till they draw blood on your hands if you try to restrain them, destroying furniture, throwing hard objects at your head, trying to bite you… etc..

    • December 14, 2018 at 11:56 pm

      Hi Sandy. I am more than familiar with those scenes as I have been there too. I am not sure if you mentioned whether your child is in SPD therapy, but these are behaviors that are worked on a great deal with occupational therapists. These are usual responses for when a child becomes so overwhelmed with their environment, they don’t know any other way to react. At one point, I had a Play Therapist who suggested I try the corner method (eg: time out’s in the corner or a separate place for no longer than their age, then trying to talk to them again), but this doesn’t always work for a child who struggles with not being able to express their discomfort in any other way.

      The key is trying to make sure the child is given constant sensory input so that their reactions don’t escalate to this point. I totally understand that this can’t always be predicted, because there are always times when the child seems to be okay and something will just set things off. I remember having to face the same situations you’ve just listed, and it can be very difficult for everyone. That’s why it’s so important to have some sort of ‘quiet/safe space’ for the child to go to, separating him/herself from the triggers at hand, so that they will not injure themselves or those around them. And they must understand that (1) it is the behavior that you’re trying to change or discipline, not them being bad and (2) to teach them in the most loving way that this behavior is unacceptable. I remember being at a total loss where I’d have to leave places or completely take my child(ren) out of the situation at hand.

      Do you have a ‘quiet space’ set up? Have you been given some sort of sensory diet/plan specified to your child? Has the child been diagnosed with any other struggles?

      It is difficult to hear this now, or remember when you are dealing with your child in the throws of a sensory meltdown, but it does get better over time once the best-suited sensory plan is put in place and practiced.

      Feel free to contact me directly if you would like more specific tips or direction. As I said, I have had to deal with this both with my daughter and my son, and it was a bit different with each of them.

  • December 23, 2018 at 9:13 am

    Hello, i just found your site and so happy i did! I am the grandmother of a 4 yr old boy diagnosed with SPD- my daughter really struggles with managing his behavior when he spikes to a point of no return. she is 5 months pregnant and during some of his episodes of meltdown, has tried to kick her, hit her. We have an OT that works with him, she is wonderful. our biggest challenge is how to discipline him- consequences to his actions. I really appreciate your suggestion of disciplining the behavior, not him. Any other insights you can offer to help manage the “melt down” and or ways to identify when its getting there? we are also aware of the Iceberg effect so working through that as well. * My goal is to help our family get educated enough so all of us that have interactions with my grandson, we must all be on same page and understand him. thank you!

    • December 24, 2018 at 12:16 am

      Marlene, I am so happy that you found me here and for your comment. What an inspirational family you are. It truly is wonderful to see how the entire family is working together to learn how to help your grandson. It sounds like you are on the right path. I remember very well the challenges in dealing with a child who has sensory issues while you’re trying to deal with a pregnancy. I am actually working on another article on disciplining these wonderful children because it is very important for the child to learn that although their reactions to situations and experiences are different than most of the rest of us, it is not appropriate to hurt others. The key is to prevent things from getting to the explosive point through sensory diet but as we all know this isn’t always possible. And you are very right in highlighting that is the behavior we are trying to change in such cases and that is what is inappropriate, not the child himself. He is not a ‘bad child’. If you need any specific ideas, please feel free to contact me. Or always feel free to refer to the STAR Institute. That offers a wealth of information for SPD families. Good luck! You are all doing the right things.


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