The Five Senses

This is a continuation of my last post, where I talked about our need to cocoon.

I shared an article to explain why this is so important for Tate right now.

*First, let me say that I originally stated that I would not be sharing Eliza’s challenges here. But the Lord showed me that “our people” need to know about these things – because we need you to understand how to help our little ones when you have face to face interaction with them.

We use homemade play doh for a sensory activity!

I want to share another part of that article – about sensory challenges. This will give you a glimpse into Eliza’s world:

“Cocooning limits your new child’s sensory experience.

When a baby is born, he or she begins to experience the world through seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling. When that child ends up living inside the walls of an institution, their sensory experience is typically very limited. Extended time in a crib often takes place, limiting that child’s interactions with others and with the world. An orphan’s diet can be quite simple in terms of flavor and texture with the same meals often being provided each day. Some children are allowed to go outside to play while others never leave their orphanage walls. Their brains are accustomed to their every day sensory experience, processing information as they use their five senses.

Then we walk into their lives, and everything changes. All of the sudden, we are meeting all of their needs, but oftentimes look, smell, and sound so completely different from their nannies. We are speaking to them in an unfamiliar language, and our gestures and other nonverbal tools for communicating might also be new. For meals we order an array of dishes with noodles and rice, steamed buns and congee but soon begin throwing in pizza, cheeseburgers, French fries, chicken sandwiches, tacos, and burritos. The textures and flavors are all so new and different. Sometimes they are easily chewed and swallowed, and other times, our new children spit them out.

Although many of our children have rarely – if ever – ridden in a vehicle, suddenly they are riding in taxis, vans, and buses (without car seats – mind you), and eventually they are flying across the world to their new home. The movement and motion they experience is unlike any experience they’ve had before. The level of noise at home, the numerous colors at the grocery store, and the various plant textures outside all have to be processed by a brain that is inexperienced with that level of sensation.

Cocooning addresses your child’s need for a controlled sensory environment. By keeping your child’s world very small, you will limit them to the sensory experience within your home first. Being around the family pet(s) is often very scary for newly adopted children. This adjustment period will help your child who has siblings who run and play and scream. Allowing your children to experience grass in your backyard can help them be prepared for a later trip to the park.

For one of my children adopted from China, we had to be very mindful of his level of sensory stimulation. If he became overwhelmed by sounds, sights, and movement around him, my son would cope by spinning in circles. To be honest, we went to the mall today, and he commented that the food court was very loud. He became super over-stimulated and struggled to focus, obey, and walk normally. This son has been home for almost two years, and his sensory issues are still present.

Oftentimes, if either of our sons newly home from China were over-stimulated by people or the environment, they would experience night terrors. When that happened, we had to reevaluate our schedule and maybe stay home the next day to rejuvenate instead of going to a splash pad as planned. The cocooning period helped our family stay flexible to meet our children’s needs as they adjusted to their new lives and all of the new sensory experiences they were having.”

Kinetic sand is another great sensory activity!

Eliza has severe sensory challenges – to the point that it is disrupting our lives on a daily basis.

Blake and I have done our best to introduce things slowly for Eliza’s sake. We have been very aware of Eliza’s challenges in this area from day one. Bright light, noise, how things feel on her feet or skin (all the way from walking in the grass to wearing clothing), and smells overwhelm Eliza on a daily basis. Unfortunately, her way to cope is to come completely undone. To the point that her breathing becomes very fast like she is hyper ventilating. For someone seeing this, it just looks like a big ole tantrum. But that is very far from what is really going on.

We cheered Eliza on as she worked hard to overcome something as simple as walking in the snow!

It is a heart breaking thing to go through, but I have an understanding of how she feels. I, myself, deal with sensory challenges because of autoimmune disease. Noise and smells are the hardest for me – and I have been known to leave church service to sit in the hallway if someone covered in perfume or cologne sits next to our family. Trying to handle that strong smell takes away my ability to engage in worship and listen to the sermon. I am so grateful that I have a glimpse into Eliza’s world this way.

Choices we make in Eliza’s day will play out to how her day is going to go. If we choose to be around a large crowd in a gathering of some sort (like church), or take Eliza to a store (where there are bright lights, noise, and an overwhelming amount of chaos) we can expect to have a very hard afternoon (or even the van ride home sometimes), and a hard sleepless night. If we choose to be at home all day, moving her from activity to activity, following our routine and schedule – we can expect Eliza (for the most part) to have a good day.

You are so precious, sweet baby!!

We have sought help for Eliza. Unfortunately, we are on a waiting list 40 people deep. We are looking forward to the therapy that will help Eliza overcome these challenges!

Could you pray with us for our sweet baby girl too? Our heart is for her to be free from these challenges! Thank you for your prayers!!


  1. Gail says:

    These last two posts are excellent! It explains so much and will direct everyone’s prayers more specifically.

    Thanks for sharing your heart, my friend.

  2. Connie says:

    As soon as you mentioned sensory challenges I thought of Eliza walking in the snow. Thankfully you have the Lord to help you through all these times, and you have some understanding of what she is dealing with. Will definitely be praying for this concern. Praying for you in so many ways. So looking forward to seeing you tomorrow! Thank you for sharing.

    • Steph says:

      Walking in the snow was such a battle for Eliza. She wanted to be with the boys having fun. But she knew she probably could not handle ALL that came with that decision (hat, boots, mittens, snow….) We are so proud of her as she strives to overcome these challenges!! Thank you for your prayers! I am SO excited about tomorrow!!!!

  3. Ang says:

    Thank you for sharing this Steph. I have been pondering this idea of cocooning since you first explained it. I guess it is the logic behind my Monday-stay-at-home-days. And now as I am grieving the loss of my mother, I find I too am limiting sensory input to keep my nerves calm.

    This is a great concept. Your blog is a blessing to many.

  4. Aunt Tracy says:


    Thank you so much for sharing about cocooning and sensory issues. I read an article a couple weeks ago written by a foster mom trying to explain some of these issues and this clarifies even more what she was explaining. It is so important and helpful for those who are dealing with this to explain it to those of us who don’t. It would never have occurred to me that that is what is going on and why. Your blog has been a blessing to me in so many ways, but I think this is probably one of the greatest because it helps me not only with your children but with others’.

    You continue to be in my heart and in my prayers. I love you all.

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