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Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a term that is becoming more and more familiar to teachers and parents. However, many people still don't fully understand what it is about or how it can affect day-to day life at home and at school.
This page gives an overview of sensory processing, with some helpful links to more in-depth information and some helpful SPD books.
Click on the quick links below to jump to the sections you want to read.
Sensory Processing is a normal process that takes place in all of our brains. Without it, we would be unable to function effectively! This is how it works:
Additional vital sensory information is obtained from:
Normal sensory processing occurs when the brain:
When the brain does not adequately process the information it receives from the senses, then the child may experience a disorder of sensory processing - also known as sensory integration disorder.
Experts in the field have written numerous excellent books on sensory processing disorder, and the various sub-types that children can present with. I often refer parents to those books for a more in-depth understanding.
But for now, here is a quick overview of the different sub-types - and remember, a child may experience difficulties in more than one area!
Sensory modulation is the ability to regulate, or modulate, the information that the brain is receiving from the senses, so that the amount of stimulation is just right - not too much, and not too little.
A sensory modulation disorder can present in different ways:
In normal sensory processing, the brain receives messages from all the senses of the body and then works with the information to tell the body how to respond to the information.
When the brain does not process information properly, and therefore does not send the right messages to the body, everyday physical (motor) tasks may be affected.
Here are some possible scenarios:
Children who have difficulties in this area may struggle to process and understand
Before you rush into labeling your child or yourself, remember that sensory processing is a normal process we all experience, and we can all have good days and bad days. Sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, illness, and stress can all contribute to moments or days of poor sensory processing. Even PMS can make you feel like you are sensory defensive and heading for a meltdown!.
What we are concerned about is a pattern of repeatedly struggling with the same issue over a period of time, to the degree that it affects your child's day to day functioning - eating, dressing, schoolwork, relationships etc.
Sensory processing/integration disorder is usually diagnosed by an occupational therapist, and occupational therapy is usually recommended.
Your occupational therapist will use sensory integration
techniques that are designed to stimulate the appropriate sensory system
and prompt the brain to process the information more effectively.Your OT should also help you to identify and implement coping strategies and a sensory diet that will help your child at home and at school.
If you suspect your child may have a sensory integration disorder, please request an appointment with an occupational therapist as soon as possible!
It is important to recognize that sensory integration dysfunction cannot be cured with medication. It is a neurological issue and the underlying processing deficits can be addressed through intervention with sensory integration techniques.
However, there are some helpful sensory integration activities and exercises that parents can do at home to support and help their children who are struggle particularly with sensory modulation.
I also really recommend that parents and kids read at least one good book on Sensory Processing Disorder to better understand how to cope with daily challenges.
And last, but not least, a thought provoking article by Lemon Lime Adventures: 10 things to never say to a child with Sensory Processing Disorder!
Weighted blankets, sensory toys, and lots more to help kids with SPD!
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