SENSORY PROCESSING We all have it but what exactly is it?
Sensory Processing is the way that the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. What happens when sensory though is affected?
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a disorder of the brain that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information that it needs to interpret the sensory information that it receives. Children with SPD find it difficult to process and therefore act upon the information received through their senses.
Some common facts about SPD:
- At least 1 in 20 people in the general population may be affected
- Prevalence higher in children who are gifted, those with ADHD, Autism, or fragile X syndrome, than in other populations.
- Studies have found a significant difference between the physiology of children with SPD and children who are typically developing or with ADHD.
- Sensory Processing Disorder has unique sensory symptoms that are not explained by other known disorders.
- Heredity may be one cause of the disorder.
- Laboratory studies suggest that the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are not functioning typically in children with SPD.
SUB-CATEGORIES OF SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER INCLUDES:
Sensory Modulation Disorder: Occurs when a child has difficulty regulating responses to sensory information
- Sensory Over-Responsive: A child tends to respond too much, too soon, or for too long to sensory input most people find quite tolerable
- Sensory Under-Responsive: Children tend to be unaware of sensory input, to have a delay before responding, responses are muted or the child responds with less intensity compared to the typical person
- Sensory Craving: Children are driven to receive sensory input, but getting the stimulation results in disorganization and does not satisfy the drive for more
Sensory-Based Motor Disorder: Occurs when a child has difficulty with balance, motor coordination, and the performance of skilled motor tasks and can be related to:
- Postural Disorder: Poor perception of the position of their body, poorly developed movement patterns that depend of core strength so therefore the child appears weak and/or has poor endurance
- Dyspraxia: Difficulty thinking of, planning and/or executing skilled movements, especially novel movement patterns
Sensory Discrimination Disorder: Occurs when a child has difficulty interpreting subtle qualities of objects, places, people or other environments and includes:
- Auditory DD: Difficulty interpreting characteristics of sensory input that is heard
- Visual DD: Difficulty determining characteristics of sensory input that is seen
- Tactile DD: Difficulty determining characteristics of sensory stimuli input is felt on the skin
- Vestibular DD: Difficulty interpreting characteristics of sensory input experienced through movement of the bod through space or against gravity
- Proprioceptive DD: Difficulty interpreting characteristics of sensory input experienced through use of the muscles and joints
- Gustatory DD: Difficulty interpreting characteristics of sensory input that is tasted
- Olfactory DD: Difficulty determining characteristics of sensory input that is smelled
SENSORY PROCESSING SUBTYPES
Sensory Modulation Disorder: Occurs when a child has difficulty regulating responses to sensory information and includes:
Sensory Over-Responsively: Children with sensory over-responsiveness are more sensitive to sensory stimulation
- Their bodies feel sensation too easily or too intensely (e.g. feel as if as if they are being constantly bombarded)
- Often have a “fight or flight” response to sensation e.g. being touched unexpectedly or loud noise, a condition sometimes called “sensory defensiveness.”
- Children tend to try to avoid or minimize sensations, e.g., withdraw from being touched, or cover their ears to avoid loud sounds.
Sensory Under-Responsively: Individuals who are under-responsive to sensory stimuli
- Are often quiet and passive, disregarding or not responding to input of the usual intensity available in their environment.
- They might appear withdrawn, difficult to engage and lethargic because they do not detect the sensory input in their environment.
- Their under-responsiveness to tactile and deep pressure input tends to lead to poor body awareness, clumsiness or movements that are not graded appropriately.
- These children may not perceive objects that are too hot or cold or they may not notice pain in response to bumps, falls, cuts, or scrapes.
Sensory Craving: Children actively seek or crave sensory input and seem to have a large desire for sensory input.
- They tend to be constantly moving, crashing, bumping, and/or jumping.
- They may “need” to touch everything and be overly affectionate, not understanding what is “their space” vs. “other’s space”.
- Sensory seekers are often thought to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
Sensory-Based Motor Disorder: Occurs when a child has difficulty with balance, motor coordination, and the performance of skilled motor task
Postural Disorder: Difficulty stabilizing the body in order to meet the demands of a motor task.
- Children with poor postural control generally do not have the body control to maintain a good standing or sitting position for play activities.
Dyspraxia/Motor Planning Problems: Difficulty processing sensory information properly.
- Problems planning and carrying out new motor actions lead to difficulty in forming a goal or idea, planning a sequence of actions or performing new motor tasks.
- Children appear clumsy, awkward, and accident-prone (e.g. can break toys, have poor skill in ball activities or other sports, or have trouble with fine motor activities)
- Tend to prefer sedentary activities or try to hide their motor planning problem with talking or with fantasy play.
Sensory Discrimination Disorder (SDD): Occurs when a child can discriminate means understanding accurately what is seen, heard, felt, tasted, or smelled in the environment.
- Exhibit problems determining the characteristics of sensory input. The result is a poor ability to interpret the input (e.g. Do I see a “P” or a “Q”? Do I hear “cat” or “cap”, or “Do I feel a quarter or a dime in my pocket?” or “Am I falling to the side or backwards?”).
- Can appear awkward in both gross and fine motor abilities and also seem inattentive to people and objects in their environment. Children also may take extra time to process the important attributes of sensory input.
HOW OUR CENTER TREATS SENSORY DISCRIMINATION DISORDER
Our center provides Occupational Therapy as an effective intervention for treating the symptoms of SPD rendered in our sensory motor gyms.
- Treatment focuses on guiding children through activities that are fun and playful, but also subtly challenge the child.
The goal is to promote age appropriate responses to sensation in an active, meaningful and fun way!