Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sensory Sensitivities

The term “sensory sensitivity” refers to issues relating to the senses, particularly sight, touch, sound and movement.

When your child starts to show some odd behaviours you might want to look around, listen and even smell what is happening around them. It can gie you clues about what is bothering the child - what the sensory senstivity is.

Sensitivity can relate to “hypersensitivity” or heightened senses. People experiencing hypersensitivity are highly receptive and can become overwhelmed by sensory information, and can feel, see and hear things at an level much higher than the average person.

This can lead to behavioural issues, such as being abnormally frightened or distressed by noises, find colours or shapes disturbing or become anxious or bothered by the smell, taste or feel of things.

Brain overload might result in the child becoming inactive beause they can't make sense of what signals they are receiving. Alternatively they might become hyperactive as they react to the signals that are hurting their brains.

Others may experience “hyposensitivity” where senses are dulled. They may not be able to hear certain sounds or voices, or not feel touch or pain as others would. As with hypersensitivity, children with low sensitivity may become inactive as their brain can’t decipher what is coming in.

Alternatively, they may become hyperactive due to a need for more sensory information, either through self-stimulation or inattention.

Children with autism are likely to experience sensory sensitivity, which may lead them to display apparent obsessive behaviours, such as wearing the same shirt (they like the feel of it) or refusing to wear a different shirt (the tag on the back irritates them to the point of frustration). They might talk to themselves a lot in an effort to block out other noises. Perhaps they have to touch everything as they walk along - even to the point of feeling the wall as they move from room to room. Your child might need some tactile stimulation.

Others may become frantic at sounds and sights, such as music and lights, hurting their ears and causing their brain to overload. They may scream or hit their head, as it is literally hurting them.

If you can pinpoint what it is that is causing 'odd' behaviour in your child you can find a way to manage the behaviour. Teaching your child to cope with their sensitivities is often a matter of pre-warning your child about what is going to happen or involving them in activities which help them to extend their boundaries.

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