Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is also sometimes known as sensory integration dysfunction. This disorder is characterized by a lack of appropriate responses to situations. Studies suggest that 1 in 20 children is affected by SPD, but the severity of the symptoms and how it impacts a child’s everyday life varies.
Children with sensory processing disorder usually fall into one of two categories when it comes to outward stimuli.
- Under reacting
Those who overreact to situations need more soothing than other children. Parents and teachers may also have to ease into transitions or situations that cause emotions a child is likely to overreact to. Quieter environments with fewer emotional stimulants may be best for this type of SPD. Often students will need to take tests in quiet areas, wear headphones when working or listen to soft music to calm down.
Children who under react are often focused on themselves. They may not join in to play with other kids or seemingly ignore what is going on around them. They may need to be encouraged to interact with other kids and to respond to what is going on around them. It may be helpful to have more periods of exercise to make them interactive and attentive.
According to the SPD Foundation, ” Most children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) are just as intelligent as their peers. Many are intellectually gifted. Their brains are simply wired differently. They need to be taught in ways that are adapted to how they process information, and they need leisure activities that suit their own sensory processing needs.
Once children with Sensory Processing Disorder have been accurately diagnosed, they benefit from a treatment program of occupational therapy (OT) with a sensory integration (SI) approach. When appropriate and applied by a well-trained clinician, listening therapy (such as Integrated Listening Systems) or other complementary therapies may be combined effectively with OT-SI.
Occupational therapy with a sensory integration approach typically takes place in a sensory-rich environment sometimes called the “OT gym.” During OT sessions, the therapist guides the child through fun activities that are subtly structured so the child is constantly challenged but always successful.
The goal of Occupational Therapy is to foster appropriate responses to sensation in an active, meaningful, and fun way so the child is able to behave in a more functional manner. Over time, the appropriate responses generalize to the environment beyond the clinic including home, school, and the larger community. Effective occupational therapy thus enables children with SPD to take part in the normal activities of childhood, such as playing with friends, enjoying school, eating, dressing, and sleeping.
Ideally, occupational therapy for SPD is family-centered. Parents are involved and work with the therapist to learn more about their child’s sensory challenges and methods for engaging in therapeutic activities (sometimes called a “sensory diet)” at home and elsewhere. The child’s therapist may provide ideas to teachers and others outside the family who interact regularly with the child. Families have the opportunity to communicate their own priorities for treatment.
Treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder helps parents and others who live and work with sensational children to understand that Sensory Processing Disorder is real, even though it is “hidden.” With this assurance, they become better advocates for their child at school and within the community”.