Sensory processing describes how you take in information from the environment and your body through your senses. Your brain must register sensations at the correct intensity, send that information to the correct part of the brain to make sense of it, and then act/respond appropriately. For example when you hear a sound, you hear it at the right level and pitch (a loud firetruck siren), send it to the part of the brain that makes sense of the sound (the auditory cortex), and then respond appropriately (pull over to the side of the road). Sometimes information can be interpreted as too intense (hyper-sensitivity), not intense enough (hypo-sensitivity), sent to the wrong processing center of the brain, and/or your body does not respond appropriately to the sensation. This is called Sensory Processing Disorder.
Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder can include any one or more of the following symptoms:
Excessive fear of heights, movement, or new activities
No boundaries, safety awareness, or reasonable caution when engaging in play
Constant need for motion, difficulty sitting still especially in group settings, a need to spin, jump, or run
A need for deep pressure, squeezes, hugs
Clumsiness, lack of awareness of obstacles in environment
Sensitivity to certain noises
Sensitivity to certain textures, a dislike for being messy/dirty
Picky eating habits
Bothered by tags on clothing/certain types of clothing
Frequently mouthing objects
Frequent meltdowns, especially at the end of the day or after school
Fear of/reactive to loud busy environments
Seeking out intense experiences
Appearing overly withdrawn and shy
Sensory processing is best treated through a Sensory Diet. A Sensory Diet is an individualized activity list intended to be done on a daily basis to desensitize sensations that are felt too strongly and provide more intensity of sensations that are not felt strongly enough. Some examples of activities include Astronaut Training, Therapeutic Listening, the Brushing Protocol, systematic desensitization techniques, weighted materials, and/or reflex integration exercises. Consult with an occupational therapist to learn more about whether or not your child could have sensory processing difficulties and ways to help.
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