WHAT IS SENSORY PROCESSING?
Sensory Processing is a process of the central nervous system that takes place unconsciously. Each individual receives sensory messages from their surroundings and their bodies, interprets the information, and then organizes a response to the information. Sensory Integration occurs in three main sensory channels.
Vestibular System- This system detects motion and gravity and is an individual’s main balance organ. The vestibular sense also maintains muscle tone, coordination of the two sides of the body, arousal level, and holds the head up against gravity. It automatically coordinates the movements of one’s eyes, head, and body.
Tactile System- This system provides information through our skin about the properties of an object. For example, the shape, size, and temperature of the object. Adequate tactile processing is needed for good discrimination of tactile information. Individuals with inadequate tactile registration often function in a protective mode versus a discriminative mode.
Proprioceptive System-This system gives you feedback as to where your muscles and joints are in space (spatial awareness). This system also impacts how much pressure an individual puts on an object, and how far an individual is executing specific body parts.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER
Hyporesponsive to Input (Underreactive)
• Craves intense movement (i.e. spinning, fast moving carnival rides, jumping, rocking, and does not appear to get dizzy)
• Appears to have no fear or is a daredevil (i.e. climbs to high places)
• Constantly needs to move (i.e. fidgety, can’t sit still in circle time or at a table)
• Bumps into objects on purpose (i.e. doorways, furniture)
• Likes to be upside down or thrown in the air (i.e. hangs head over sofa or bed)
• Constantly touches people or objects
• Likes to be under blankets or pillows
• Does not realize when he/she has food on their face
• Does not appear to register pain properly
• Does not realize the amount of force he/she is touching someone else with
Hyperesponsive to Input (Overreactive)
• Avoids movement (i.e. will not go on the swings at the playground)
• Appears clumsy or uncoordinated
• Avoids balance activities
• Does not like his/her head to be inverted
• Dislikes physical activity or avoids playing sports
• Experiences motion sickness
• Avoids getting dirty
• Dislikes having his/her hair or face washed
• Avoids playing at the sand table or in shaving cream
• Dislikes the feel of new clothes
• Asks to have the tags cut out of his/her clothes
• Dislikes being hugged or cuddled
• Asks to have his/her hands washed immediately after touching a sticky texture
Dysfunction in Proprioceptive Processing
• Appear clumsy or rigid in their movements
• Lacks fluid movements
• Have difficulty ascending or descending stairs
• Fall down more often then normal
• Have difficulty isolating individual body parts
• Put too much or too little pressure on an object
• Heavily rely on their vision while performing a visual task
Motor Planning or praxis is the ability to spontaneously sequence and organize movements in a coordinated manner. Motor planning is the ability to self organize yourself while performing a task. The demand for praxis is highest in order to complete new or novel information. The first stage of motor planning is the ability to ideate. Ideation is the ability to generate an idea of how to interact with the environment. (Feeding the baby) The second step of motor planning is an individual’s ability to sequence and organize their actions. The final step of motor planning is the execution of the action. After the execution, the child must then make any adaptations to his/her plan of action.
Children with motor planning abilities may take a longer amount of time to catch on to new activities. They often require more structure and need more cueing to complete a task. Very often children with motor planning difficulties have to cognitively compensate for underlying motor planning abilities. Consequently, they are working harder then they should have to, and often can fatigue easily or get frustrated with challenging tasks.
HOW DO WE DIAGNOSE A SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER?
An occupational therapist with a sensory integration background will perform a comprehensive assessment to evaluate the child’s sensory processing skills. The Sensory Integration Praxis Test (SIPT) is the most comprehensive test that can be given to children age’s 4 years old- 8 years 11months. Additionally, there are other standardized tests that can address sensory integration disorders. Just as importantly as standardized tests, the therapist should perform clinical observations of the child. During the clinical observations, the therapist will evaluate the child’s visual motor skills, muscle tone, balance reactions, bilateral coordination, ability to cross the midline, ocular motor skills, rhythm and timing, and motor planning abilities.
•Individual Occupational Therapy Sessions
•Interactive Metronome-A computer based program that works on establishing more effective timing and rhythm, consequently enhancing sequencing and motor planning abilities.
•Handwriting Without Tears - A program that uses a multi-sensory approach to teach proper handwriting skills.
•Sensory Diet (Individualized for the child, must be carried out at home and at school)
•The Alert Program
•Follow through activities from individualized therapy sessions.
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