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Q&A: Help for SPD Child Riding the Bus?


Do you have any suggestions for preparing our daughter to ride the bus? She has been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, She’s very coordinated but in CONSTANT motion. She also seeks frequent physical input from me.  She really wants to ride the bus to be with her friends, but it really rattles her. It is loud, bumpy, and she has to be confined to one spot for 30 minutes. A teacher of hers took your seminar and told us you might have some ideas. Thank you in advance!


I always recommend finding a local OT with a strong sensory background to give you personalized suggestions after thoroughly assessing your child. For the meantime, here is some food for thought:

When we talk about sensory processing, we talk about being either over-responsive or under-responsive to different forms of sensory input. It sounds like she is UNDER-responsive to most forms of input, especially proprioceptive (deep pressure to the muscles and joints) and vestibular (movement). This means that she has a very high threshold for movement and deep pressure for it to be registered and processed in her brain. She has become a sensory seeker to try to meet that high threshold level. What we want to do is try to give her intense forms of input that help her reach that threshold quicker, so she will be able to settle down. If you have joined the website and are familiar with BrainWorks, this will mean you will want to focus on the green arrow activities before getting on the bus. For example, before getting on the bus, try to spend 10–20 minutes doing one (or a combination) of these types of activities:

1. Jump on a backyard trampoline: Encourage her to land in various positions so she gets deep pressure throughout her body, not just her feet.
2. Crashing play: Set up a beanbag chair surrounded by couch cushions and allow her to jump off the couch and land in the beanbag. Again, encourage landing on hands and knees or on sides to get deep pressure through her body.
3. Obstacle Course: Play follow the leader or set up a simple obstacle course in the house that requires lots of crawling on hands and knees,slithering on her belly, and rolling under tables and over pillows. This provides intense whole-body input which will be calming after 10–20 minutes of it.

Some kids who are extremely under-responsive may need 30 minutes or more of this type of play. I know it seems a little confusing since these are very stimulating forms of play, but since they are intense forms of input, these activities will help her reach her threshold level and then will allow her to feel more settled for a while so she may be able to sit more easily while on the bus without the need for movement.

While on the bus, you may consider having her wear a weighted vest or a pressure garment. Pressure garments have the advantage of being able to be worn under clothing and left on for her entire school day. These can be purchased commercially on the therapy product sites ( You can have her wear a tight-fitting garment like a long-sleeved leotard or Under Armour. These will give her a little bit of deep pressure input during her ride and during her time at school, which will be calming to her nervous system.

Sending fidget toys in her backpack is a good idea too. Besides the ones you tried, Scented Tangles, squishy balls, and spinning light toys are frequent favorites.

Best Wishes,