A Focus on Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health


    April 2024

    Introduction to Sensory Processing


    This newsletter focuses on sharing information on infant/early childhood mental health and

    the importance of relationship-based approaches and supports that help infants and young children feel safe, supported, and valued by the adults around them. The newsletter, and the Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC) program, is made possible by a partnership between the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) and the Pennsylvania Key.



    We experience various sensory input throughout each day: seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, and feeling. However, everyone receives this input differently. This issue of the Bright Start newsletter will dive more deeply into how to support individuals (and perhaps ourselves!) who have sensory needs. Some individuals may require additional sensory input, and some may become overwhelmed by sensory experiences. Please read ahead as the IECMH Consultation team explores sensory processing and integration.  


    Coming in May: Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Awareness


    Did You Know?


    An Introduction to the Eight Sensory Systems. When you were growing up, chances are, you learned about the five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. It might surprise you to learn that there are actually eight sensory systems. And that all eight of them are integral to a child's development and daily life.


    The Sensory System and Sensory Processing


    The Importance of Sensory Development in Early Childhood. Sensory development lays the foundation for a child’s learning as they make sense of the world around them by using their senses. Incorporating sensory activities in your lesson plan will help your preschoolers cope with changes in their environment and adapt to real-life situations.


    Sensory Processing Overview. The way the body analyzes and responds to the signals it receives from its environment. Thoughtful, guided exposure to playful sensory experiences ensures that children learn to process and appropriately respond to the sensory stimuli in their environments.


    Sensory Integration Basics. Sensory integration is the process by which we receive information through our senses, organize this information, and use it to participate in everyday activities.


    Sensory Processing Issues


    Sensory Processing Issues Explained. Sensory issues are problems related to processing information form the senses, like sight and sound. Kids with sensory issues often get overwhelmed by things like light and noise and might act out or throw tantrums.


    Sensory seeking and sensory avoiding: What you need to know. Some kids tend to be sensory seekers. They underreact to sensory input or need more of it to function. Others are generally sensory avoiders. They overreact to sensory input and become overwhelmed and hyperactive.


    Sensory Symptoms Checklists. These checklists are not a diagnostic tool. They may serve as an indicator of sensory over or under-responsiveness. The purpose of this tool is to assist in understanding a child’s sensory needs and support the needs of individual children.


    Classroom Activities and Resources


    100 Classroom Sensory Activities. The following list is full of sensory strategies that may be beneficial for use in the classroom. Keep in mind, every child is different and will respond to sensory strategies in different ways. 


    38 Proprioceptive Activities for Kids. Our proprioceptive system is in charge of body awareness and knowing where our body is in space. Learn about the importance of a well-developed proprioceptive system in children, the signs that a child may be struggling with proprioceptive input, and the best proprioceptive activities for children. 


    DIY Sensory Path and Motor Path. A sensory path allows kids an opportunity to move and work on skills such as eye-hand coordination and spatial awareness, both of which are crucial for learning and development. You can easily create your own DIY sensory path with items that you have on hand or that don’t have the high price tag.


    Family Focus


    Understanding sensory processing challenges in your child. If your child has strong reactions to tastes, sounds, or the feel of certain items, you may wonder why this happens. When kids have outbursts or get upset by things in the environment, it’s often because of sensory processing challenges. Their brains have trouble managing the information that comes in from the senses.


    What Parents Need to Know About Sensory Dysregulation. Learn what it looks like for your child to be in sensory dysregulation and how to help them get out of it and prevent it in the future.


    10 Sensory Red Flags You Might Be Missing. Commonly overlooked sensory red flags and signs of sensory issues that could be a clue to your child’s needs, which will decrease confusion and frustration.


    Office Hours


    IECMH Consultation helps adults strengthen their relationships with young children and build capacity to respond to children’s social-emotional needs. IECMHC can help reduce caregiver stress, as well as increase caregivers’ reflective practice skills.


    IECMH Consultants are available by appointment to provide IECMHC Virtual Office Hours consultation via telephone or video conference. IECMHC Virtual Office Hours is a short-term, collaborative, problem-solving conversation to help you find next steps for: Child Social-Emotional Concerns | Child Behavioral or Developmental Concerns Emotional Well-being of Teachers and Caregivers | Partnering with Families.


    Appointments are held on the first and third Fridays of the month, or other days/times by request. Get more info.


    Accessing IECMHC Services


    The Pennsylvania Key has streamlined the process for Keystone STARS programs to request Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC). Child care providers can request services by using the Request for Service Form (PDF). Completed forms can be submitted via email PAIECMH@pakeys.org or faxed to 717-213-3749.


    Programs and families can contact the program leadership directly at PAIECMH@pakeys.org with questions or concerns.


    Accessing SACCMHC Services


    With the generous support of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) the Pennsylvania Key IECMH Consultation team has expanded to include four mental Health consultants to support School Age Child Care (SACC) programs participating in Keystone STARS.  This service will be primarily tele-consultation support. Click here to request support.  



    Share your feedback! We'd like to hear what you think about infant early childhood mental health.

    Are there resources you'd like to see? Questions you have? Tell us! Send your feedback to PAIECMH@pakeys.org.