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How a child processes and responds to sensory information – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch – can be reflected in their emotional reactions. Some children find everyday activities such as dressing themselves, overwhelming and distressing.
We process information from our senses throughout our day. Whether it be the noise and the visual busyness from our tube journey to work, or the taste and smell of the meals we eat. We are aware of the 5 senses sight, smell, touch, sound, taste, but did you know that there are also 2 additional senses:
Proprioception (body awareness)
Within our joints and muscles are receptors that tell our brain where our limbs are positioned in space.
Vestibular receptors, located in the inner ear provide the brain with information about the body’s movement.
Most children process sensory input from the world around them easily to produce normal behavioral responses. It is when this information is not processed or ‘integrated’ correctly that a child’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities can be affected.
How would I know if my child had Sensory Processing Disorder?
If a child is having difficulties processing the sensory information from the world around them their behavior may be affected in many ways. They are less likely to be able to achieve their full academic potential, find social interactions difficult and find family activities such as swimming, holidays or going to the cinema distressing. Here are some descriptions of the ways that Sensory Processing Disorder may present itself in your child:
Tactile difficulties (touch)
These may be displayed through an aversion to sticky or dirty hands, not wanting to wear shoes or socks, finding clothes itchy, an interest in touching certain surfaces and fabrics, not liking having their hair washed or brushed, or not liking textured food, resulting in a fussy or picky eater.
Proprioceptive difficulties (where they are in space)
This may present itself through a child seeking out heavy items to cuddle up under such as heavy clothing or coats. They may appear fidgety in class and constantly moving to seek input.
Vestibular difficulties (movement)
They may avoid movement such as spinning or swinging or have a fear of heights, or they may be completely opposite to this and crave these sensations and engage in these activities at every opportunity.
Auditory difficulties (hearing)
This includes an over sensitivity to loud noises, for example in the playground or swimming pool. Children who are under responsive to auditory input may appear to have a lack of attention to the world around them i.e. not noticing when their name is called out.
Assessment & Treatment
Therapeutic intervention to help a child with sensory processing difficulties is important to:
Ensure the child is able to engage in learning tasks.
Enable the child to be able to develop appropriate social interaction, behavior and play skills.
Allow the child to cope in busy environments.
School transition may be difficult if they are unable to follow instructions within the educational setting (e.g. classroom instructions, academic task requirements).
Because children do not ‘grow out of’ sensory issues, rather they change and adapt as necessary with varying degrees of success.
Our team of professional pediatric therapists will evaluate your child’s current abilities and create a plan of care to help your family achieve your goals.