Sensory Processing Disorder affects 5% of the school age children

tour special needs family

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), sometimes referred to as Sensory Integration Disorder, affects approximately 5% of the school age population.

Children with SPD may have difficulty learning and performing everyday activities including: eating, dressing, receiving a hug, or sliding down a slide.

These children have an inability to correctly interpret sensory information that our bodies receive through touch, taste, smell, seeing and hearing.

While there are many ways to support your child with a Sensory Processing Disorder, typically the first step is to get a thorough evaluation from an Occupational Therapist (OT). Imagine a child who:

* Screams when you show affection by softly patting her on the back

* Gags on most foods, including such typical crowd-pleasers as hot dogs and macaroni and cheese

* Hits, bites, pinches or grabs – not out of ill will; he just can’t help it

For the child with SPD, these symptoms are real and can often have a significant impact both on the child, and the family as a whole.

* There is evidence that children with SPD are physiologically different (Miller et al., 2001). This has several implications.

* First, SPD may always be present, even when your child is an adult. The symptoms may be less severe, but your child will need to recognize the impact of SPD and learn life-long coping strategies.

* Second, early intervention is critical in the treatment of children with SPD.

* Third, SPD commonly appears with many other disorders, including autism, ADHD, fragile X, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation.

Current terminology categorizes sensory processing disorders to include three distinct patterns: sensory modulation disorder, sensory discrimination disorder, and sensory based motor disorder.

Sensory modulation disorder
A child with sensory modulation disorder has difficulty interpreting and correctly responding to sensory information coming from the environment. The key is that the brain does not filter and interpret information correctly. The body may over-respond, under-respond, or vary in response to sensory information. Further, the body responds in a way that is unequal to the sensory information coming in.

This pattern includes three subtypes:

Sensory over-responsivity. A child with sensory over-responsiveness is overwhelmed with sensory input (noise, movement, touch, taste, smell). As a result, the body develops a fight or flight reaction.

Sensory under-responsivity. Children with under-responsivity may appear lethargic. In class, these children may slump in their chair. They may not feel pain appropriately and ignore a bleeding cut or a bump on the head.

Sensory-seeking craving.  This child needs deep touch in order to feel. She may grab, pinch, bite, and hit, not out of maliciousness, but rather to obtain needed sensory input.

Sensory Discrimination Disorder

A child with Sensory Discrimination Disorder has difficulty understanding the qualities or aspects of sensory information. He may appear clumsy and have difficulty distinguishing between a baseball and a tennis ball.

Sensory Based Motor Disorder

This child may have difficulty sequencing new motor actions and appear clumsy. The pattern
includes children who display dyspraxia and a postural disorder.

Praxis refers to the ability to plan motor events. A child with dyspraxia has difficulty imagining, coordinating and realizing unfamiliar movements.

A child with a postural disorder may have difficulty sitting up, attending to tasks, and
organizing their body. This is the child who practically lies on top of their desk.

Activity for the Child with Sensory Based Motor Disorder

Obstacle courses can be a fun ways to build coordination. Just make sure that it is challenging, but not so difficult that it becomes frustrating for your child. Remember, your child drives the activity; your role is just to be a guide. So, have your child create the course. Have your child help you think of games to play.

* First, you will need to purchase a bulk quantity of toilet paper. Get one of the really big packages with 24 rolls.

* When it is appropriate, have everyone gather together. Have your children stand in the middle of the room, hands to their side and feet together. Now, wrap lots and lots of toilet paper around them. If it is healing to think of this activity as parental revenge, allow yourself the freedom of thought.

* When your children are all bundled nicely, set up an obstacle course, which might involve jumping over pillows, hopping to the left or right, or turning in a circle. Structure the course to be fun for your children, taking into account what skills they already have and remembering they are wrapped in toilet paper! Make sure you have a beginning and ending point.

* When you say ‘go’ , have your children complete the course, and when they get to the finish line, tell them that they can break out of their wrapping.

* In a fun way, you have provided sensory input to your child with SPD, as well as provided an opportunity to develop motor planning skills. Best of all, your child didn't even notice, as it was too much fun.

While there are many ways to support your child with a Sensory Processing Disorder, typically the first step is to get a thorough evaluation from an Occupational Therapist (OT).

Depending on the outcome of the evaluation, the OT may recommend a course of treatment to your child’s physician, or provide some recommended activities that you can integrate into your family’s schedule. Many children enjoy the OT sessions.

Typically, the activities are fun and purposeful. Your child may swing, go through tunnels and obstacle courses, or work on practical skills such as writing. Even though it may sound like play, the activities are designed to integrate your child’s senses to normal functioning.

Christopher R. Auer, MA is the author of Parenting A Child with Sensory Processing Disorder: A Family Guide to Understanding and Supporting Your Sensory Sensitive Child (New Harbinger, 2006). He is a parent of three children, one of whom is diagnosed with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. He is also a sibling to a person with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

It has been said that ‘....a family of five is akin to five people lying side-by-side on a waterbed....whenever one person moves EVERYONE feels the ripple.’ A child with Sensory Processing Disorder can have a devastating impact upon the day-to-day functioning of a family.

There are several books available that provide data and information on the nature of this puzzling disorder, but Christopher Auer and Susan Blumberg have written a valuable book that finally provides parents with specific strategies and practical solutions to the daily challenges faced by these special children and their families. While other books DEFINE the problem, Mr. Auer and Dr.Blumberg offer techniques to minimize the effect of the disorder on the child's daily life.

I strongly recommend this book to any adult who is parenting a child with a sensory processing roblem....and to the professionals who are assisting Mom and Dad on this challenging journey."

Richard D. Lavoie, M.A., M.Ed.
Author, "It's So Much Work to be Your Friend"
Executive Producer, "How Difficult Can This Be? The F.A.T. City Workshop"

Finally a book that treats SPD in the full context that it deserves; not as a co-condition or as another obstacle but as a full fledged challenge to the complete inclusion of individuals with unique learning styles. The collaborative integration of the senses accounts for your picking up this book, examining it and deciding on whether to make it part of your library. Auer walks you thru how that process is both derailed and rekindled."

Rick Rader, MD
Editor in chief
Exceptional Parent Magazine

Kids with sensory processing disorder SPD may seem unduly sensitive to physical sensations, light, and sound, and they may react strongly to sensory events that adult and other children take in stride or totally ignore. SPD can make it hard for kids to do well in school, participate in social events, and live peaceably with other family members. Until now there have been only limited resources for parents of kids with this condition, but in this book a child advocate and child psychologist offer this comprehensive guide to parenting a child with SPD and integrating his or her care with the needs of the whole family.

The book introduces SPD and offers an overview of what it means to advocate for a child with the condition. It describes a range of activities that help strengthen family relationships, improve communication about the disorder, and deal with problem situations and conditions a child with SPD may encounter. Throughout, the book stresses the importance of whole-family involvement in the care of a child with SPD, especially the roles fathers play in care-giving. Many of the book's ideas are illustrated with case stories that demonstrate how the book's ideas can play out in daily life.

The author, a professional working with families with special needs and father of a child with sensory processing disorder, offers the first book to help parents integrate care for a child with sensory processing disorder with the needs of the family as a whole."

All children can benefit from appropriate sensory activities and experiences.

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