Parents often ask - does my child have sensory processing disorder (SPD)? This is a tough question as SPD is not so concrete. As a parent, if you ask yourself this question you may want to contact an occupational therapist.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is the way the nervous system receives messages and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. A child who has SPD does not properly receive the messages sent by the nervous system. These children have challenges participating in everyday tasks.
Sensory systems involved with sensory processing:
Vestibular – sense of movement/balance
Proprioception – sense of body awareness
Tactile – sense of touch
Visual – sense of sight
Auditory – sense of hearing
Olfactory – sense of smell
Gustatory – sense of taste
What does sensory processing disorder look like?
Children who have SPD can respond to sensory input in various ways:
Over-respond to sensory input
Children who are avoidant, sensitive or bothered by various sensory experiences. For example: Children easily gag at the taste or smell of foods, have difficulty in noisy environments (i.e. birthday parties), unable to wear clothing with tags.
Under-respond to sensory input
Children who appear to be clumsy and have difficulty with body awareness.
Seek/Crave sensory input
Children who appear impulsive and fidgety. They are constantly leanings on things, can’t sit still and is constantly touching everything.
Sensory Processing and Occupational Therapy:
Occupational therapists help children with SPD use various techniques and theories; including sensory integration. First, the occupational therapist assesses what is interfering with the child’s daily functioning using observation, parent interview and standardized assessments. If a child requires intervention, an occupational therapist will create an individualized treatment plan that will target specific skills.
Some activities an occupational therapist will help improve are:
Reduce tactile defensiveness
Improve body awareness
Improve bilateral coordination
Improve motor planning
Improve visual perceptual skills
Improve fine motor skills
Collaborating with parents, teachers and other professionals are key for the child to succeed. Follow through is extremely important when a child is given a sensory diet to follow.
What is a Sensory Diet?
A sensory diet is a multi-sensory schedule for children who require various input throughout the day. It gives the child “breaks” (ie. Vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile input) throughout the day as needed. Sensory diets are individualized to meet the specific needs of the child, which will be put together by an occupational therapist. It is important that for a sensory diet to work that the entire team (i.e. other professionals and parents) must follow through with the activities implemented.
Sensory Diets can include:
*Consult with an OT before brushing
Bouncing on therapy ball
Jumping on trampoline
Gross motor activities
Oral Motor Actvities:
Drinking from a straw
*A sensory diet should not be implemented without speaking to an occupational therapist*
Some great resources:
1). Kranowitz, C. (2005). The out-of-sync child: Recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder (Rev. and updated ed.). New York: A Skylight Press Book/A Perigee Book.
2). Sensory Processing Disorder Explained | SPD Foundation. (2015). Retrieved September 22, 2015.
3). Yack, E., & Sutton, S. (2002). Building bridges through sensory integration: Therapy for children with autism and other pervasive developmental disorders (2nd ed.). Las Vegas: Sensory Resources.
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