A sensory cup is a term used to describe the amount of sensory input that a child can tolerate before becoming overwhelmed or reaching their neurological threshold. Every child has a different sensory cup determined by their neurological threshold.
If a child has a lower neurological threshold and is more sensitive to sensory input, their sensory bucket will be smaller. You can think of this as a Tall cup at Starbucks, which means they can only tolerate a certain amount of sensory input before becoming overwhelmed. It takes less input to register in the child’s system, and so with seemingly little input, their cup can overflow. For example, a child with a lower neurological threshold may become upset or anxious in a crowded, noisy environment or may be bothered by certain textures or smells.
On the other hand, if a child has a higher neurological threshold, their sensory cup will be higher. Think of a Vente cup at Starbucks. This means they can tolerate more sensory input before becoming overwhelmed and may need more input to register in their system and make sense of it. For example, a child with a higher neurological threshold may enjoy loud music and a busy environment and seek out intense sensory experiences such as jumping, crashing, fidgeting, or spinning.
At Developmental Pathways for Kids, we help you understand your child’s sensory cup as a pediatric clinic in Redwood City, California. This allows us to help caregivers and educators create a supportive environment that meets your child’s sensory needs. For example, if your child has a smaller sensory cup, they may benefit from a quiet, calm environment with fewer distractions and less sensory input. Conversely, if a child has a larger sensory cup, they may need more opportunities for movement and sensory play to feel satisfied.
Overall, sensory cups emphasize the importance of understanding a child’s neurological threshold and creating a sensory environment that supports their unique needs. As a provider of pediatric therapy in California, this allows us to set your child up for success so that they can get to and sustain an organized state to match the demands of the environment.
When a child is regulated or in a balanced state, they are best set up to function well in all their developmental areas (motor, speech, cognitive skills, self-help skills, and social skills) with the help of a multidisciplinary pediatric therapy clinic.