Sensory Processing Disorder: Why Does My Child Struggle With Sensory Issues?

 

I was greeted at the door by a mom and her two year old newly adopted son dressed in a very cute sailor outfit. However, by the time we walked about ten feet into the kitchen and sat down, the child was naked and flooding the bathroom! Although at first glance, one might assume this child had ADHD, when in fact he had a Sensory Processing Disorder. What this mom learned very quickly, is that therapy and the use of some accessible activities can really help calm the senses of children dealing with sensory integration disorder.

Sensory processing disorder (or SPD) is also known as Sensory Integration Disorder—a condition where the individual struggles to process or have appropriate responses to the demands of their environment. Basically a ‘sensory overload’ where the brain becomes overwhelmed with smells, sounds, sights, textures, temperature and other sensory input—affecting a child’s social skills and behavior.

If you have concerns about your child having these issues, speak with your pediatrician. Your child might benefit from a referral to an occupational therapist. They are trained to evaluate and develop a plan of care or interventions that can be helpful for your child.

Occupational therapists refer to a ‘sensory diet’—activities that are sensory based and help the child to calm down. It might be helpful to keep a diary of your child’s behavior as that will help the professionals identify issues of stress and possible interventions. Be aware of activities or situations that cause your child to go into sensory overload. Avoid them or have ‘escape’ plans with your child, so that your child feels more in control of the situation.

Here is a list of some of the activities or interventions used as part of the treatment for SPD.

  1. Miniature trampoline – jumping can actually help the brain settle down.
  2. Sandbox with Measuring cups and items hidden in the sand to find.
  3. Packing plastic that can be rubbed on the child, or popped.
  4. Weighted blanket – cover the anxious child in a weighted blanket
  5. Weighted vest – sew weights into the pockets
  6. Bubble gum – chewing will help to calm the senses.

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