Sensory Processing Disorder
Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Disorder.
Sensory processing disorder is a neurological disorder of the nervous system where your child does not process sensory information in the usual way. When a child has sensory processing disorder their brain has difficulty organising and integrating sensory input involving touch, taste, smell, hearing and vision. This may cause challenges in learning and behaviours.
If your child seems to be taking their time in developing sensory processing skills it may be because they have difficulty with processing their environment. They may find it confusing to understand what is expected of them in certain situations. You may feel that they are not listening to you or understanding your instructions. They may have difficulty with sleep; be fussy with food; and have poor motor skills. They may not play well with other children and will have difficulty understanding the social skill of sharing.
Learning challenges and delays may appear with poor concentration; short attention span; difficulty with speech and language; and keeping pace with other children in a learning environment.
What Are the Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder?
Children who experience hypersensitivity are often sensory avoidant and they will avoid activities which cause them to feel overwhelmed, like loud noises; bright lights; sitting close to others; or being in contact with certain materials. We need to understand that activities they find overwhelming can be ordinary everyday activities. Children may have particular senses that they find more overwhelming than others.
Children who experience hyposensitivity often seek out sensory experiences. They will have difficulty stopping themselves from touching objects and may repeat a sensory experience over and over.
How to Help You Child with Sensory Processing Disorder.
Diagnosis of sensory processing disorder is important. It will give you and your child access to appropriate specialist input. Involve your child’s teacher in what you know works in different situations. You know your child best so share your expertise with their teachers and carers.
Children with sensory processing disorder may need special assistance with learning and managing their challenges. There are activities you can do at home which are inexpensive and help with everyday sensitising and desensitising. They will also need to develop skills of how to cope in situation where they are not in control. Have a calming object they can carry with them and access quickly. This may be a ‘blanky’ for a smaller child or squeeze ball for an older child. Some children may need to use headphones if they are in crowed noisy areas.
Be aware of opportunities in the environment for your child to practice using all their senses. Point out bird calls, trains passing, flowers to smell, and new foods to taste.
Model behaviours for them such as appropriate communication; following instructions; and situational behaviours. Children with sensory processing disorder are confused about what is expected of them and will often display inappropriate behaviour. Plan ahead and prepare your child for new experiences.
Have a special place they can go to calm themselves and spend quiet time. Make this a pleasant place and an area they can make their own. Give the place a positive name. Don’t give negative overtones to their special area.
Place in a box squeeze balls in all shapes and different textures. This helps children to decrease stress as well as stimulate sensations in controlled amounts. This can work to the advantage of both hypersensitive and hyposensitive children. They gain control over how much sensory input is okay. Add a few spikey dinosaurs to the mix.
A prickly door mat is a good desensitiser for children who have difficulties putting on their socks and shoes and leaving them on. Get them to stand and stamp on the mat before sliding their socks on, and stand and stamp again before putting on shoes. The prickly mat is also good to place under little bare feet when sitting eating at the table or doing work at a desk. This can often be a great sensory diversion.
Using headphones to listen to music, stories and sounds, allows hypersensitive children to control their sound levels and hyposensitive children to improve sensory hearing. Listening to calming music when your child is distressed can also give the right amount of sensory input.
Cold and warm to increase sensation and touch can be as simple as getting your child to wash items in basins with cold and warm water. This is good if you have a double sink, one with cold water and one with warm water.
Weighted stuffed toys and blankets can also have a calming effect. This is the next step up from being swaddled as a baby for gaining feelings of security and to lesson stimulation.
Read more about Sensory Processing Here