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Exploring Sensory Processing Disorder in Children: What You Need to Know

With sensory processing disorder, the brain has problems processing information from the senses and taking appropriate action. Sensory integration disorder used to be a separate medical diagnosis, but that is no longer the case.

Some people with sensory processing problems are overly sensitive to their surroundings. Some everyday sounds might be painful or overwhelming. Even a light touch from a shirt might irritate the skin.

Most of the time, children are the ones who have trouble understanding their senses. They can also hurt people, though. Sensory processing issues are widespread in children who have autism spectrum disorder and other cognitive issues.

What Symptoms Indicate Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing problems, including what is sensory processing disorder, can be caused by how a child feels things. Children who are easily excited may be susceptible. Because of this, they become more sensitive to light, sound, and touch. If they get too much sense of information, these feelings may make them more upset, lose focus, or cause them to act out.

Hyposensitivity can also happen to children. It means that they may be less sensitive to what they feel.

What a person's signs are may depend a lot on what kind of sensitivity they have. For example, anxious children may think everything is too loud or bright. These kids may have trouble being in places with a lot of noise. They might also have trouble with smells.

On the other hand, children who are hypersensitive and have less sensitivity want to connect with the world around them. For more sensory input, they may interact more with their surroundings.

Is SPD a Form of Autism?

Sensory overload can happen to anyone in everyday life, but it may be a problem if it happens often. Sensory processing is the brain's ability to recognize, sort, and make sense of different feelings.

Autism and sensory processing disorder are often found together because people with autism often have trouble understanding sensory information. Sensory processing problems may affect up to 90% of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and between 5% and 16% of people in the general population.

Not all SPD kids have autism, though. Signs of autism include being unable to talk or take a long time, having obsessive interests, having few or no social skills, avoiding eye contact, having strange eating and sleeping habits, having meltdowns, and having mood or mental changes that don't make sense. A kid has Sensory Processing Disorder if they don't have any other disorders but have problems with how their senses work.

What are the Three Sensory Processing Disorder Patterns?

SPDs are grouped into three broad patterns:

First Pattern: Sensory Modulation Disorder

Sensory over-responsivity is when your senses are more alert than most people's. When someone has sensory over-responsivity, they feel things too quickly or strongly. It could make them feel too much, which could trigger their fight-or-flight reaction.

Underreaction to sense stimuli can make people quiet and unresponsive. Under-responsive people may not react to events at all, or their responses may need to be stronger. They may seem self-centered or distant because they can't feel what's going on around them. Children who aren't sensitive enough may hurt themselves because they don't notice when it's too hot or too cold or when they fall and hurt themselves.

Second Pattern: Sensory-based Motor Disorder

Postural disorder makes it hard for a person to keep their body stable while moving or at rest so they can meet the needs of their environment or do a motor job. When you control your posture, you can reach, push, etc. Poor positional control, on the other hand, means that a person doesn't have enough control over their body to stand or sit in a good way.

Dyspraxia, also called developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a disease that makes it hard to move around well. Because they can't handle sensory information well, people with this problem need help planning and carrying out new motor actions. People like these are often awkward and have a lot of accidents.

Third Pattern: Sensory Discrimination Disorder 

People with sensory discrimination disorder have trouble figuring out a stimulus's sense qualities. It makes it hard for them to understand or give meaning to the traits of the stimulus. They might mix up P and Q or think "cat" is "cap." It might take them some time to figure out what the material means.

What Triggers Sensory Processing Disorder?

SPD is hard to explain to doctors. They are looking into a genetic link, which means it could be passed down from parent to child. Some doctors think that autism and SPD might be related. 

It could mean that children with SPD are more likely to be born to parents with autism. But it's important to remember that most people with SPD don't have autism.

Sensory Processing Disorder Treatment

Many families with a child who needs help find it hard to get it. Sensory processing disorder isn't a real medical condition yet, so that's why. Even though there aren't any widely accepted standards for diagnosing sensory processing problems, occupational therapists see and treat them often in both children and adults.

Treatment differs according to the needs of each child. But in general, it means helping kids get better at things they aren't usually good at and get used to things they can't stand.

Sensory integration is a way to help people who have trouble understanding their senses, including how to help a child with sensory processing disorder. Sensory integration aims to challenge a child in a fun and playful way so that they can learn to respond correctly and function more normally. The Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based (DIR) approach is a type of therapy.

The "floor-time" method is a big part of this practice. The method involves several times when the child and parent play together. Each round of play lasts about 20 minutes.

During the sessions, parents are first asked to do what the child wants, even if it isn't normal playtime behavior. For instance, if a child keeps rubbing the same spot on the floor, the parent does the same thing. These things let the parent "enter" the world of the child.

Bottom Line

Our senses tell us a lot about the world, from how it feels and sounds to how we can stay safe. If your child has trouble understanding these sensory inputs, this could be a sign of sensory problems. Some of these are having trouble with balance and coordination, screaming, acting aggressively when they want attention, or often jumping up and down.

Children and people with sensory processing disorder may be able to learn how to deal with the world around them with the help of treatments like occupational therapy. The goal of treatment is to help them stop overreacting and find better ways to deal with their feelings. Visit Loomini Learning to learn more about the sensory needs your loved ones might need.


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