It’s Too Much! Signs of Sensory Overload in Toddlers

baby ipad prop

It’s Too Much! Signs of Sensory Overload in Toddlers

Today I read a survey reported by the Academy of Pediatrics that said the average six- month-old in America watches half an hour of something per day on a mobile device. A third of them were already swiping and tapping the screens!

In this age of technology, many of us (and according to that survey, even our youngest children) are spending way too much time in front of screens.

As adults, we may be able to adjust to these demands and know “when to say when” when it comes to our devices. When our brains and bodies begin to send us clear messages that we’ve had enough for a while, we take a break. We stand up and move around a bit, go get something to drink or eat, visit the restroom, and then return to our work (or pleasure) after we’ve sensed that everything feels better and it’s okay to resume the task.

Most grown-ups, even when we ignore those little warning bells, are still able to adapt and cope with any signals that tell us that we’re overdoing it. We may look around the room for a minute, or even close our eyes for a brief respite.

But toddlers and preschoolers often can’t adapt.

When we allow a young child to “veg out” in front of any screen – an iPad, the DVD player, even with an educational game or app –  for an extended amount of time, we should be watchful that a child is becoming overstimulated. The signs of visual over-stimulation are similar to any other sign of sensory overload:

  • Irritability and crankiness
  • Aggressiveness toward others (or even herself if she tends to do things that are self-injurious such as head banging, excessively scratching her skin, etc…)
  • Overly emotional or sensitive reactions such as crying, whining, or “falling apart at the least little thing”
  • Low arousal or “zoning out”
  • Hyperactivity, overexcitement, or “bouncing off the walls”
  • Other physical symptoms like rubbing the face, eyes, or ears

I’ve seen this behavior in therapy sessions with toddlers and I am careful to quiz parents about what’s happened just before the session so that we can make assumptions about what could be causing a child’s extreme reactions and then make the necessary adjustments.

I’ve also seen these behaviors as a mom. When my own children were in elementary and middle school, I could usually tell if they had spent their after-school hours plugged in with video games, favorite shows, or movies. As they got older, it became music on their iPods. During high school, they all liked to unwind with seemingly innocent “free time” spent scrolling through the barrage of social media. When they were overly reactive to reasonable requests such as “Come and eat dinner” or routine questions like “How’s your homework going?” I almost always knew the culprit:

Overload.

Popular psychology reports that 80% of over-stimulation comes from visual sources. I haven’t been able to confirm that with any scientific reference, but from my experience, I believe it to be pretty close.

When we see the signs of over-stimulation in young children, especially those who tend to be prone to overly sensitive or reactive responses, we have to make sure we’re modifying what’s going on so that we help children learn to recognize those signs and then do something about it.

No two- or three-year old is going to say, “Mom, I think I’ve watched too much ‘Dinosaur Train’ today.”

We have to do it for them!

Until next time –

Laura

 

 

 

Laura

1 Comment

  1. Jonathan on May 5, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Great article Laura. But What is the solution. Morning my daughter is in special school. Evening she is alone with me wife. My wife has a baby and doesn’t have time to spent with my daughter. So all evening she veg out in front of ipad.

Leave a Comment





Sign Up for your Free eBook

FREE-EBOOK
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Subscribe to the Podcast in iTunes

Browse Products

Featured Product

Recent Posts

Teach Me To Talk Testimonials

Happy Therapists, Teachers, Parents & Children

"Good Morning Laura,
I received your book (The Autism Workbook) yesterday and it is absolutely amazing! As I evaluate young children (0-3) for developmental delays and write plans for them with their parents, there are a ton of ideas that are ready to use. Others that reinforce what I have been doing, and saying, all along. Thank you so, so much for writing this incredible book and pulling everything together in one place!"

FRANCINE IN MICHIGAN

"Laura Mize, all I have to say is that ALL YOUR STRATEGIES WORK."

ANNE, YouTube viewer

"We have 7 SLPs in our preschool (public) program for special needs children (ages 3-5) and we use your courses, books, and techniques every day! :-) We have seen our preschoolers make such great gains!"

 

"I just received Teach Me to Play With You, and it is ALREADY WORKING! WOW!

Girl…my son is 3 years old, and he NEVER asks for something using words. We were playing “Get Your Belly” (from Teach Me to Play WITH You), and after several times, he laughed and screamed "BEWIEEE!!!"  It was a hoot. And I can't believe he said it! I have played with him like this before, but this time I took your advice and acted CRAZY!! I will act like a total lunatic if it will get him to talk to me!  Now I can give him "the look" from across the room, and he will say it. That manual is so amazingly practical, and it is a GODSEND right now! Thank you SO MUCH!”

"I wanted to send you a quick email to say thank you. I started watching your videos/podcasts about 4 months ago. My son has gone from losing words he previously used, only having about 7 words at his 2 year check up in August (assessed at a blended 10 month language level) -- to now having so many words, increased social engagement, following commands, spontaneously requesting things, and naming letters & numbers (not in order) as well as colors. We had our monthly meeting with our SLP through the state infants & toddlers program and it felt like we were just bragging the whole time, but I knew in the back of my head it was because I have been using strategies you taught me.

We still have so much work to do with our sweet boy, but I know in my heart he would not have succeeded without the education you provided. I will continue to read your emails & watch videos as we go along this journey and face challenges, but credit is due to you, Laura.

Thank you so much, endlessly."

KATIE

"I just want to tell how fortunate I feel to have found your website and you!! I became a special instructor in EI almost a year ago and I started with hardly any applicable training. I felt so lost and confused as how to help the kids I work with learn how to use words and play. Honestly, I didn't even understand the importance of play, although I always played with my kids. But, once I started to watch your podcasts and get some of your manuals I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and that I could finally teach these kids and their families something of value from a real therapist and based on research!. Thank you so much for seeing the need to help other EI service providers and providing a forum to share your knowledge and years of valuable experience. I'm sure you get a lot of these emails every week if not every day, but I wanted to make I could add to those notes of gratitude!! THANK YOU again!!"

SS

"Just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for these emails and your books, I have them all and they have seriously saved and improved my sessions with my kiddos. Huge thank you."

REBECCA

"I was very frustrated with how speech therapy was going for my child. I would take him and drop him off and not hear much of anything from his therapist and teachers other than, "He had a good (or a bad!) day." Your materials were invaluable for us because I learned how to work with him on his speech. I learned how to teach him to talk and play. I learned how to pay attention to his cues and work with him to teach him to communicate. Without it, I have no doubt he still wouldn’t talk."

BRITNEY

"Hi! I just wanted to say (from an SLT perspective) how incredibly useful I am finding absolutely all of your articles, blogs and resources - I only discovered your site last month and have just received all your books which I feel I am learning more than on my entire university training course!! But also the way in which you give specific, realistic, fun, encouraging ideas for working with parents is really just fantastic, I only wish I have your site sooner! Thanks so much from the UK! Kind regards."

HANNAH

"I just wanted to reach out to say thank you for making things a little easier to manage for me this year. I made the transition from school SLP to private therapist about a year ago. While the change was welcome, it was a lot, and I was just getting my footing in the clinic when I began teletherapy full time. Your website has been a huge lifeline in helping me work with late talkers and coach their parents in an accessible but effective way, even remotely. I look forward to getting your emails each week. I am floored by the amount of valuable, free information that your website provides, and I’m looking forward to investing in your workbooks soon. A sincere thank you for all you do!"

ALLISON

"You are an inspiration! I am truly grateful for the way you put into words and writing how to do what we do as SLPs. At this time in my 13 years of practicing, I find your encouragement keeps me going. As a single mom, I find it a stretch to buy materials these days and I am so thankful for the freebies you so generously share that help me teach my families. I don’t have much time to put together lists or quick references for parents!! Much gratitude!!"

ANDREA