Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) refers to the body’s difficulty in interpreting stimuli with any one (or more) of the senses.  For example, a child may have difficulty concentrating when there is a lot of background noise or might struggle to play on outdoor equipment that other children love.

Sometimes the SPD is minor and is nothing to be worried about, but other times it can cause difficulty at school or in social settings.

We receive information from the world through all of our senses – touch, sound, sight, taste and smell.  The information is taken in and processed by our nervous systems which make sense of it for us.  We all have different preferences for the way we accept information.  I prefer visual information over sound, for example.

SPD becomes a problem when the child cannot process the information properly and it interferes with normal development or behaviour.

Some examples of potential SPD indicators are:

·         Inability to focus on an activity if there is background noise

·         Jumping from one activity to another, never fully being able to complete a task

·         Responding negatively to loud noises, or often covering ears

·         Seeking high movement activities, but often appearing clumsy

·         Showing a strong preference for certain foods or smells

·         Irritation from shoes, socks, tags, or different textures

·         Difficulties learning new activities

·         Under or over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds
There are more indicators listed on the North Shore Pediatric Therapy website.

If you know your child has a sensitivity to something, you can plan around it.  For example, if your child hates lumpy food, don’t buy yogurt with fruit pieces in it.  If they hate the feel of woollen jumpers, avoid blankets and toys made of woollen fabric.

Sensory toys and games can make “therapy” fun and be done at home.  The idea is to expose your child to a range of different stimuli in a safe and fun way so that gradually the fear goes and the child learns how to respond more appropriately.

Specialist Occupational Therapists can make a big difference in the way your child copes with his or her sensory issue so if it is causing real problems at home or school, that would be your best starting point.

SPD can be managed so that your child can have a normal, happy life.

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