What is Sensory Processing?
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is the inability to use information received through the senses in order to function smoothly in daily life. It occurs when the nervous system struggles to adequately process the incoming sensory information from the sensory systems and organize it (or integrate it) in order to produce the appropriate motor, behavioural or emotional responses.
Children and adults with this disorder are unable to process input from one or more sense and can present as either unresponsive to their world, increasingly active in their world as they seek extra sensory input, or defensive to typical sensory input such as textures, smells, sounds or tastes. These different responses can be compared with characters from the childhood classic Winnie the Pooh as the ‘under responsive’ individual would present similar to Eyeore, the ‘sensory seeker’ who is constantly seeking sensory input would present as Tigger and the ‘sensory avoider’ could be anxious, scared or nervous as in Piglet.
What does Sensory Processing look like?
This complex disorder will not often present the same symptoms for any two people affected making it extremely complex in nature and even harder to diagnose. What should be noted is that all people, in some way, have their own sensory preferences, such as the temperature of your shower or bath, the sound level of your stereo or the material of clothes that are comfortable to wear. When faced with these undesirable textures, this can prompt an emotional response. What distinguishes typical sensory preferences from Sensory Processing Disorder, is the level at which these preferences begin to affect daily life, functioning and emotional or self-regulation.
How does Sensory Processing present in children?
Next steps – what to do if you think your child has Sensory Processing Disorder?
In order to determine if your child has Sensory Processing Disorder you can ask your GP for a referral to an Occupational Therapist who will complete an initial screening to determine whether there are strong indicators of your child having SPD. A more in-depth assessment is completed if SPD is present and will assist determine, which senses the child may be receiving disorganised input from and what course of action to take.
The earlier the intervention, the more successful the therapy will be. It is usually not identified before the age of three and sometimes not until the child is closer to four. This is because babies and toddlers are still developing sensory integration and the characteristics of the disorder cannot be clearly identified.
SPD Australia https://www.spdaustralia.com.au
‘The Out of Sync Child’ by Carol Stock Kranowitz
Author: Mel Ishkhanian Educational Leader, Explore & Develop Narraweena.