Sensory processing refers to our ability to receive, understand, and effectively respond to incoming sensory input (for example, sound, touch, flavors, and textures). Although we all process a multitude of sensations every moment of the day, this is still not an easy area to understand. Much of our sensory processing is done without our conscious awareness or thought. Yet without effective sensory processing we would not be able to perform a number of routines or everyday tasks, including basic functions such as walking down the street, sitting in a chair and listening to a speaker, or having a conversation. Adequate sensory processing provides the foundation for effective motor skill development, as well as providing the basis for emotional security and coping skills.
What are some of the signs of Sensory Processing Disorder?
Children who are not able to process sensory information effectively will have trouble spots in their motor skill development and/or their behavior and self-regulation skills. Signs of SPD can vary greatly, but some of the most common symptoms are listed below. Some children with SPD will only show symptoms in one of the following areas, while others will have difficulties in more than one area. It is important to note that many individuals have unusual sensitivities or use sensation in unusual ways; the difference between those with SPD and those without is often a matter of degree. Children with SPD experience these symptoms to the extent that they become a source of distress on a frequent basis and/or these symptoms impacts their ability to participate in school or recreational activities. Some of these concerns or difficulties include:
- Unusual sensitivity to clothing or self-care
- Easily disturbed by loud noises
- Bothered by messy hands or messy face
- Difficulty functioning within a crowd of children
- Poor body awareness
- Unable to sit still
- Appears clumsy or awkward
- Frequently bumps into people or objects
- Often uses more force (or less force) than needed
- Difficulty transitioning between places or activities (does not ‘go with the flow’)
- Poor recovery once upset
- Exhibits a strong need for control
- Does not appear comfortable in own skin
What causes Sensory Processing Disorder and is it common?
We do not know why Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) occurs in some children, research and theories exist but causation has yet to be established. We do know that it is a neurological concern and not a learned behavior. Recent estimates suggest that SPD is indeed quite common, impacting anywhere between 1 and 6 to 1 and 20 children, meaning that in every classroom there is probably at least one child affected by SPD.
What can we do to help?
At Hand Skills for Children, we offer a variety of Sensory and Motor treatment options to fit the needs of both the child and the family. These options can range from periodic consultation to weekly intervention individually.