What is Low Arousal and How Can Occupational Therapy Help?

What is low arousal?

Arousal refers to our state, consciousness, or awareness at any given moment. Children with low arousal usually under register proprioceptive, vestibular, and/or tactile input. These three sensory systems work together to help the nervous system regulate energy level and the ability to pay attention and respond appropriately to what is going on around us.

Symptoms of low arousal

Children with low arousal typically are passive, have a slow reaction time, often have a low energy level, and low muscle tone. During seated activities, the child may find continuous and focused attention often challenging. It also may take the child a good part of the morning to get to the point where they are engaged with their environment. They tend to be content without engagement and have adults often describe them as “being lost in their own daydreams.” Children with low arousal may also actively seek out more sensory input, rather than just go with the flow.

Although every child is unique and has individual needs, developing a morning routine may assist in targeting the child’s low arousal throughout the day. From the start of being woken up, a gradual light alarm clock that slowly brightens the room and/or lively music to help alert the nervous system may be helpful. A morning shower and/or skin rub with a loofa or skin brush can be beneficial also. Breakfast is one of the most important meals to start off a productive day. Incorporating time for the child to physically move around and play encourages higher arousal. Shorter periods of time, hands-on learning, high interest, movement, tasks, and variation all play a role in the engagement of a child with low arousal. Integrating small changes throughout the day can impact a child with a low arousal sensory system.

Do you have questions about low arousal and pediatric occupational therapy?
Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services for children, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

Contact Us