February 2, 2015
BY | Paige Rosoff & Louise Weadock
Typical sensory processing is having the ability to intake sensory information (sensations such as smells, sounds and tastes) from our environment or body, and to organize it correctly in our minds so that we react in an appropriate way and can use it to function in everyday life. Therefore, to put it simply, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is the ineffective processing of the sensory information intake in our brains – SPD acts like a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to understand and respond to sensation.
Sensory Processing Disorder can affect a child in only one sense-for example, just touch or just movement-or in multiple senses. A child with SPD may be over-responsive (hypersensitive) to sensation and find clothing, light, food, sound, and physical contact unbearable, or they may be under-responsive (hypo-sensitive) and show little to no reaction to stimulation, pain, or extreme hot and cold.
Hypersensitivities to sensory input may include:
- Extreme response to or fear of sudden, high-pitched, loud, or metallic noises like flushing toilets, clanking silverware, or other noises that seem inoffensive to others
- May notice and/or be distracted by background noises that others don’t seem to hear
- Fearful of surprise touch, avoids hugs and cuddling even with familiar adults
- Seems fearful of crowds or avoids standing in close proximity to others
- Doesn’t enjoy a game of tag and/or is overly fearful of swings and playground equipment
- Extremely fearful of climbing or falling, even when there is no real danger i.e. doesn’t like his or her feet to be off the ground
- Has poor balance, may fall often
Hyposensitivities to sensory input may include:
- A constant need to touch people or textures, even when it’s inappropriate to do so
- Doesn’t understand personal space even when same-age peers are old enough to understand it
- Clumsy and uncoordinated movements
- An extremely high tolerance for or indifference to pain
- Often harms other children and/or pets when playing, i.e. doesn’t understand his or her own strength
- May be very fidgety and unable to sit still, enjoys movement-based play like spinning, jumping, etc.
- Seems to be a “thrill seeker” and can be dangerous at times
Treatment For Sensory Processing Disorder
Once a child is properly diagnosed with SPD, they will benefit greatly from Occupational Therapy with a sensory integration approach. The goal is to foster appropriate responses to sensation in an active, meaningful, and fun way. Therapy such as this takes place in a sensory-rich environment-a place that has many activities and opportunities to explore the senses under the supervision of a professional and also the presence of the parent.
About SPD. (2015, January 31). Retrieved January 31, 2015, from http://spdfoundation.net/about-sensory-processing-disorder.html#treated Koomar, PhD, OTR/L, J., Karanowitz, MA, C., Szkut, MS, OTR/L, S., Balzer-Martin, PhD, OTR, L., & Haber, MS, OTR/L, E. (2007).
What is Sensory Integration? In Answers to Questions Teachers Ask about Sensory Integration (p. 63). Arlington, Texas: Sensory World A Proud imprint of Future Horizons. Signs and Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2015, from http://www.brainbalancecenters.com/blog/2012/04/signs-and-symptoms-of-sensory-processing-disorder/