Understanding sensory processing difficulties in our children

Many families discover Attachment Parenting in their quest for how to raise their “spirited” children.

All children, evident from birth on, have their own unique temperament. For some children, their temperament traits may be challenging for their parents or teachers. Common among these possible traits are sensory processing difficulties.

Children with difficulty in processing sensory experiences — sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell — connect to regions in their brain and/or nervous system that may be overly or under-sensitive to that particular sense. For example, my daughter has great difficulty with the feeling of water — her nervous system is hypersensitive to certain touch experiences. I even have sensory difficulties with certain sounds, touch experiences, and light brightness.

In my family’s case, our sensory processing difficulties have likely a genetic component. But children can also develop sensory processing difficulties from sensory deprivation experienced early in life, especially those in the foster care system, those who’ve been adopted, and those who’ve experienced a traumatic early childhood such as in cases of overt abuse or neglect.

However your “spirited” child came to develop sensory processing difficulties, this video from Empowered to Connect gives an excellent overview of what sensory processing is and how difficulties with sensory experiences can impact child behavior:


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The gift of opening my heart

Attachment matters

Ideally, all children would be able to experience a secure attachment with every meaningful adult in his life.

Attachment Matters, the latest ebook from Attachment Parenting International (API), was written specifically to help you — the parent — share the importance of Attachment Parenting to other meaningful adults in your child’s life.

Attachment Matters is now available with your donation of $25 or more to API.

Learn more about secure and insecure attachment, read touching personal stories of how Attachment Parenting helped families, and share your copy with a grandparent, mother’s helper, childcare provider, teacher, or another of your child’s caregivers.

Attachment Matters is also appropriate for health care providers, school administrators, mental health therapists, child custody attorneys, adoption agents, and other professionals who work regularly with children and parents.


  • Foreword: An Attachment Crisis
  • Why Attachment Matters
  • Can Insecure Attachment Be Healed?
  • How Secure Attachment Happens
  • Attachment-Promoting Behaviors
  • Attachment Parenting Stories, Real Life
    Why Attachment Matters to Me
    -Attachment Parenting Can Heal Intergenerational Hurts
    -Saved by Attachment Parenting, and Now 8 Kids Later (3 with Autism)
    -A Father Reflects on His Introduction to Attachment Parenting
    -Helping My Young Child Adjust to a Change in Caregivers
    -Protecting Attachment During Divorce
    -The Challenges of Becoming an Attached Father
    -Attachment Parenting Restores Security in Adopted Children
    -The Heart of Attachment Parenting
    -Was Attachment Parenting Worth It?
    -Generation AP

Nurturing children for a compassionate world


Each day of our lives…


The growing trend of grandfamilies

Grrandparents Carter Quote Black

Editor’s Note: Today, in observance of Grandparents’ Day, we acknowledge and honor grandparents for their love, dedication, and contributions to their evolving families and future generations. As we celebrate grandparents, we spotlight the growing trend in the U.S. of grandparents raising their grandchildren.

Grandma Hand ChildA few months ago, a third-grade boy in my sons’ school unexpectedly and tragically lost his mom. She was his last surviving parent. His dad passed away 2 years earlier. This has been a devastating, unthinkable reality for this boy:Both of his parents no longer with him in a short period of time, at such a young age.

Like many others in the community, I wondered: How will this young child cope with this misfortune and deep emotional suffering? And, who will become his primary caregiver and raise him for years to come?

The paternal grandparents stepped forward and moved into the boy’s residence to become his primary caregivers. The circumstances and transition have been understandably challenging for the grandparents and the boy.

I was thinking of how difficult it all must be for the grandparents: being elderly, unprepared to be in this position, on a fixed senior income, and caring for a young child who is emotionally shattered — all the while, grieving themselves.

Any parent can attest to how demanding it is to care for a young child — from the basic tasks of feeding, clothing, showering, and schooling arrangements to the more delicate tasks of providing a nurturing environment and emotional support. It’s not a minor burden for an elderly person to take on.

It directed my attention to a growing trend that is affecting the most vulnerable members of our society: the young and the elderly. Increasingly, children in the Unites States are being raised by their grandparents in a family unit called a “grandfamily.”

Grandfamilies, or kinship families, are families in which children reside with and are being raised by grandparents, other extended family members, and adults with whom they have a close family-like relationship such as godparents and close family friends. Often times, it is the grandparents that come forward to care for the children in situations when the parents are unable to. Also, in many instances, the call to care for the children is unexpected and unplanned, which presents many unique challenges for the grandparents: legal, housing, finances, education enrollment, dealing with chronic illness, change of plans, and ability to meet the child’s needs at an old age.

The 2015 “State of Grandfamilies in America” report from Generations United points out that 7.8 million kids in the United States live with grandparents or other relatives in the household. That’s a sobering statistic.

Grandfamilies are diverse in ethnic background, race, and income levels. There are a variety of reasons for grandfamilies to come together, such as death of parents and difficult life circumstances for the parents from financial difficulties and military deployment to incarceration, mental illness and substance abuse. During the 1990s’ crack cocaine and AIDS epidemic, there was a sharp increase of lower-income grandparents who became the primary caregivers of their grandchildren.

Children who are raised with relatives experience better outcomes in comparison to children who are raised by non-relatives as they experience more stability, safety, mental health, and maintaining connection and bond with other family members. Thus, it is important to provide support and improve public policies to support such family units. A change in state and federal laws and policies have been enacted to meet the needs of grandfamilies — it’s a shift in the right direction with room for additional policies to support grandparents and their grandchildren.

Many children under difficult circumstances, as well as our societies, have been benefiting from the sacrifices made by grandparents. While becoming parents again at a later age and often unexpectedly encountering many challenges, grandparents express that becoming their grandchildren’s caregivers has given them a greater sense of purpose in life.

If, as a society, we view our children as an integral part of our future — the next generation of parents and leaders, and honor those who have already served their role as parents — it is our responsibility and in our best interest to strive to find solutions to promote the well-being of the grandchildren and grandparents who are a part of a growing trend of grandfamilies.

Other Resources for Grandfamilies:

Generations United

The Grandfamilies State Law and Policy Resource Center

AARP Grandparent Information Center

Editor’s pick: The heart of Baby Courts is attachment

gavel-4-1409594-mBeginning this week, Attachment Parenting International (API) will be publishing weekly Editor’s Pick posts — through which we’ll be highlighting an article or blog post that takes a look at attachment science as it increasingly becomes commonplace in our society.

This week’s article, Judges Are Using Brain Science to Help Babies Caught in the Court System,” written by health journalist Ada Calhoun and published on Quartz, is a must-read article for any parent or professional involved in family court.

Every parent is doing the very best they can, at any given moment, based on the knowledge and resources they have on hand as well as the inner emotional work they’ve done to prepare themselves for raising their child.

I truly believe this, and apparently so do professionals involved with “baby courts” — a revolution of sorts that’s been happening in the U.S. family court system aimed at reducing trauma among children ages 0-3 removed from their parents due to neglect and abuse.

At the helm of this baby courts movement that empowers parents — rather than puts up seemingly impossible conditions for parents to meet — to regain custody of their child, is Judge Cindy S. Lederman who first put the baby courts concept into practice in 2005 in her Juvenile Court of Miami-Dade County, Florida, USA.

There are now more than 30 baby courts across the United States.

The heart of baby courts is attachment. Baby courts work off Attachment Theory, child brain development and ACE science. Through high-tech brain imaging and research showing direct links between child trauma and poor physical, mental and social health in adulthood, attachment is increasingly validated as more than an “optional” approach to parenting — rather, a necessity to healthy child development.

“Toxic stress in childhood can make it hard for people to attach throughout life — and, some argue, to become good parents themselves later on,” Calhoun reports. “That cycle can keep the same families in the system generation after generation.”

Traditional family court still has the goal of bringing parents and children back together, but it’s hands-off approach more often than not fails to provide them the services needed to do this. For example, a judge may order parents to drug treatment, anger management classes or a parenting course. But most parents charged with abuse and neglect live in poverty, and there are a lot of challenges that go along with this, from jobs that don’t pay for time off and lack of money for transportation to difficulty with time management and other executive thinking functions that are common among at-risk populations. Yet, failing to comply with a judge’s orders means losing custody of their child.

“No parent wants to hurt or neglect their child. Even the ones who do it don’t want to,” said mental health consultant Brooke Allman Bubbico, as quoted by Calhoun.

Plus, traditional family court decisions rely on infrequent contact with a family and often incomplete information aided by lawyers who may withhold or manipulate information to protect their clients.

“All of this makes for a fraught process for children in the court system,” Calhoun reports. “Children can be reunited with their parents only to be taken away from them again, creating instability that produces even more trauma.”

Baby courts look at children and their parents as a unit, and works with teams of experts that come alongside both the child and the parents with the goal of uniting the family with better parenting skills and resources, a healthier emotional development atmosphere for children, and intact attachment.

As Calhoun reports, baby courts appear to be making a big difference in the lives of involved families. At one baby court, only .5% of the children had a maltreatment report in the following 6 months. Another baby court reported that 75% of its children were able to return to their parents, well above the national average of 50%. A therapist group reported that 60% of the young children who were referred through baby courts were able to leave special education classes within 5 years. A 2012 paper found that children served by baby courts ended up in a permanent home within an average of 1 year, twice as fast as children served by traditional family court.

And even if a baby court does eventually terminate parental rights, it orders therapy for the parents and the child to heal the relationship.

At the root of baby courts’ success and effectiveness are judges informed by the latest research in attachment and attachment trauma who then guide the lawyers, therapists, court coordinators and child representatives toward the goal of keeping the child safe and bringing the family together again.

In many ways, Judge Lederman sounds like a coach, trying to help parents understand how their children feels when they miss a scheduled visit or asking what they learned in parenting classes, not just that they attended.

“I’m not an umpire, just calling balls and strikes. I’m more like an orchestra conductor,” Judge Lederman said, as quoted by Calhoun.

This attachment-centered approach to family court is huge. There is no other way to put it.

Many believe that the family courts system has long been well behind the times when it comes to considering family attachment and especially the emotional needs of young children. It is change like what is happening with baby courts that shows society’s increasing awareness of and confidence in attachment science.

me and NathanThe #1 support call received by API is parents seeking resources regarding child custody and keeping attachment intact, while going through divorce and separation. I am hopeful for a day when the concept of baby courts trickles down to divorce and child custody decisions, and now believe that day will come sooner than later.


*Photo source: FreeImages.com/Jason Morrison