What Is Sensory Processing? "Sensory processing" refers to our ability to take in information through our senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, and hearing), organize and interpret that information, and make a meaningful response. (SPD Bay Area Resource Group)
What is Sensory Processing Disorder? Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a complex disorder of the brain that affects developing children and adults. People with SPD misinterpret everyday sensory information, such as touch, sound, and movement. They may feel bombarded by information, they may seek out intense sensory experiences, or they may have other symptoms. (SPD Bay Area Resource Group)
What Are the Statistics? According to Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, the statistics report a minimum of 1 in 20 children in the US have SPD. This is the only published statistic and is based on her research thus far. As awareness increases and more studies are done, we may very well find the statistics to be higher. When we consider the diagnosed and undiagnosed adults, and other countries… who knows how high the stats can go. I think we will see more in the years to come! This is about one child in every class. To find this published statistic, you can read Lucy Miller’s latest book, Sensational Kids.
How Does It Feel to Have SPD? People with Sensory Processing Disorder receive sensory information, but their brains process it in an unusual way which can cause stress and confusion.
Intellectual Development: Most children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) are just as intelligent as their peers. Many are intellectually gifted. Their brains are simply wired differently. They need to be taught in ways that are adapted to how they process information, and they need leisure activities that suit their own sensory processing needs.
Impact of SPD: Children with Sensory Processing Disorder often have problems with motor skills and other abilities needed for school success and childhood accomplishments. As a result, they often become socially isolated and suffer from low self-esteem and other social/emotional issues.
Risks: These difficulties put children with SPD at high risk for many emotional, social, and educational problems, including the inability to make friends or be a part of a group, poor self-concept, academic failure, and being labeled clumsy, uncooperative, belligerent, disruptive, or "out of control." Anxiety, depression, aggression, or other behavior problems can follow. Parents may be blamed for their children's behavior by people who are unaware of the child's "hidden handicap”. " Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation”
Symptoms Checklist (not complete): School Age: ___ Child is overly sensitive to stimulation, overreacts to or does not like touch, noise, smells, etc.___ Child is easily distracted in the classroom, often out of his/her seat, fidgety.___ Child is easily overwhelmed at the playground, during recess and in class.___ Child is slow to perform tasks.___ Child has difficulty performing or avoids fine motor tasks such as handwriting. ___ Child appears clumsy and stumbles often, slouches in chair. ___ Child craves rough housing, tackling/wrestling games. ___ Child is slow to learn new activities.___ Child is in constant motion.___ Child has difficulty learning new motor tasks and prefers sedentary activities. ___ Child has difficulty making friends (overly aggressive or passive/ withdrawn).___ Child gets stuck on tasks and has difficulty changing to another task.___ Child confuses similar sounding words, misinterprets questions or requests.___ Child has difficulty reading, especially aloud.___ Child stumbles over words; speech lacks fluency, and rhythm is hesitant Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation
Imagine If: You couldn't focus your eyes on me because everything and everyone in the room catches your attention and your eyes just go there instead. Every time you tried to write with your pencil, it broke because you pushed too hard. The humming of the lights sounded louder than my voice.
Imagine If: The lights are so bright you have to squint, then you get a pounding headache half way through the presentation Every time someone touches you, it feels like they are rubbing sandpaper on your skin. You could only sit here for 15 minutes and then you had to take a run around the building or do 20 jumping jacks so you could sit for another 10 minutes before your muscles felt like they were going to jump out of your skin.
Imagine If: People's whispers sounded like they were yelling. The tag in the back of your shirt makes you feel as uncomfortable as you would if a spider was crawling on you and you couldn't get him off. You wanted to write something down but it took you at least 5 seconds to form each letter. You can see the letter in your head, but your hand will not go in the right direction to write it. The Sensory Processing Disorder Resource Center
What Causes SPD? Preliminary research suggests that SPD is often inherited. If so, the causes of SPD are coded into the child's genetic material. Prenatal and birth complications have also been implicated, and environmental factors may be involved. “Processing Disorder” Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children With Sensory
Possible Causes SPD? • Genetic or hereditary• Prenatal exposure to chemicals, medications, toxins, smoke, drugs, alcohol, great emotional stress, virus, chronic illness or problem with the placenta• Multiple births, such as twins or triplets• Prematurity or low birth weight• Birth trauma, including emergency cesarean section, lack of oxygen, or surgery soon after birth• Postnatal exposure to environmental pollutants, child abuse, insufficient stimulation (limited play and interaction), lengthy hospitalization, and placement in an orphanage Child-Behavior-Guide.Com
Treatment - Occupational Therapy: When children with SPD are accurately identified, they can begin a program of occupational therapy (OT). OT, which is conducted in a sensory-rich environment, helps these children to manage their responses to sensations and to behave in a more functional manner. Bay Area
Treatment - Listening Therapy: Listening therapy (LT) is a therapeutic program to improve the neurophysiological foundation for integrating sensory input by using specific sound frequencies and patterns to stimulate the brain. Like occupational therapy, LT is based on the theory of neuroplasticity, which refers to brain changes that occur as a result of experience. SPD Foundation
Treatment - Complementary Therapies: A number of complementary and alternative therapies, such as the "Wilbarger protocol" (commonly called "brushing "), have been developed to treat children with Sensory Processing Disorder. The Wilbarger protocol, craniosacral manipulation, acupuncture, and other alternative and complementary therapies may have a role within a comprehensive treatment program. However, research has not yet confirmed their effectiveness.
School Challenge - Morning Meeting: Most schools require children of all ages to sit still, be quiet, and listen for increasingly long periods as they mature. This does not come easily for many children, especially those who are sensory seekers. Accommodations might include: Inflatable cushion Hand fidgets Time Timer (visual cue about how much longer they are expected to be quiet or focus on a given task) Weighted lap pad or weighted vest (calming sensory input as well as a physical cue to stay in place) Gum chewing Pencil Topper
Challenge - Handwriting: Handwriting (“graphomotor”) difficulties, often due to decreased hand strength and stability or impaired proprioceptive processing (pressing too hard or too lightly). Poor writing can also be related to visual processing problems and/or motor planning issues (difficulty developing and carrying out a sequence of movements).
Challenges - Transitions: Transitions such as going from the noisy cafeteria or playground into a quieter activity, can be very challenging for kids with sensory issues.
Challenges - Play: Playground and physical education issues, including how to use equipment appropriately. An OT may help your child build core strength and endurance, and may show a student how to calm down and transition to quiet activities after intense movement input such swinging or participating in sports .
Challenge - Attention: Focusing, attending, and staying organized An OT can help a child learn how to calm and organize his system so that he can better focus and attend to learning.
Challenge - Specials: The routines and environments in special classes such as physical education, art, music, and computer lab can be challenging. Such classes often involve extra background noise (e.g., classmates talking and moving at once) as well as unpleasant odors (e.g., arts and craft supplies) or irritating sounds (e.g., musical instruments or off-key singing). An OT can help a student and specialty teacher develop solutions to these issues, and we provide many suggestions in Raising a Sensory Smart Child.
Challenge - Organization: Children with poor sensory processing are often disorganized in terms of time, space, and objects. Providing accommodations to help him stay organized is not “enabling” him any more than giving a nearsighted child prescription eyeglasses. Over time, the child can be taught, step-by-step, how to become better organized. In the meantime, he may need more help than the average child to stay organized so he can get his schoolwork done on time, according to the directions.
Challenge – Homework: The teacher or aide helps your child to check his backpack at the end of the day to be sure no items are left behind. He’s given an assignment notebook, which is broken down by subject matter and has room for short notes between teacher and parent. Both teacher and parent sign off on the assignment notebook daily
Accommodations for Instruction: A child may need instructions or the day’s schedule to be provided verbally and visually, either written on the board or in writing. This is particularly true for students with auditory and visual processing difficulties. Raising a Sensory Smart Child
Challenge – Visual Directions: Visual accommodations Your child may wear any prescribed eyewear, including colored lenses and sunglasses indoors, that has been determined necessary. He is to be provided with written directions, in a form he can easily read (for example, black on white paper rather than colored markers on a white board). Raising a Sensory Smart Child
Challenge – Concentration: Concentration accommodations Your child may sit at a desk by himself instead of a table when working on multi-step, complex assignments, for better concentration. Raising a Sensory Smart Child
Challenge - Behavior: There’s a big difference between “bad behavior” and “sensory overload.” These often LOOK the same.
Test Accommodations: A child with sensory challenges may need to take tests in a separate room with fewer children around (to reduce distractions), be given extended time (if she processes information slowly), and be allowed to record answers in any manner (for example, answers may be typed or dictated to someone else). Raising a Sensory Smart Child
Appropriate Demand for Eye Contact: A child with sensory issues may need to “block off” his visual sense in order to listen more effectively. He should not be required to maintain eye contact when answering a question requiring concentration. If increasing eye contact is a goal, it should be worked on at other times, not, for example, when he is making a nerve-wracking oral presentation. Raising a Sensory Smart Child
Prepare for intense sensory experiences: The sensitive child should be warned in advance about fire drills, for instance, so she can be prepared for the intensity. She should be permitted to wear earplugs or sound blocking earmuffs during such a sensory onslaught. Raising a Sensory Smart Child
Special Place in Line: When lining up with other children, the child should always be at the front or end of the line so she isn’t disturbed by other children crowding or bumping into her. (You might ask the teacher to appoint her “line monitor” so this doesn’t seem like a punishment.) Raising a Sensory Smart Child
Special Seating: A sensitive child needs a well-considered seat location in the classroom and other rooms such as art, music, and computer lab. The best spot varies from child to child and the parent, teacher, and OT may need to collaborate to determine the best location in a given room. Children with sensory issues often do best in the front of the classroom close to the teacher, away from distractions such as direct sunlight and vents and noisy radiators. A student may also need to sit where she can’t see out the door or windows, or next to a wall for a sense of security. Raising a Sensory Smart Child
Do We All Have SPD? Some people wonder... don't we all have a sensory processing disorder? No. We all have sensory PREFERENCES! It only becomes a disorder when it significantly impacts one or more areas of functioning! The Sensory Processing Disorder Resource Center
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V Sensory Integration Dysfunction has recently been changed to Sensory Processing Disorder. There has been a great deal of research done in this area. Much work have been done to see that SPD will be included in the DSM V, as a neurological diagnosis. This work is still in progress. The DSM V will be released in 2013. This will help many families to obtain insurance coverage for the costly treatment. It will also help to promote understanding and compassion for children and adults who have SPD. The Sensory Processing Disorder Resource Center
American Psychiatric Association: Here's the official announcement from the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which publishes the DSM: There are a number of conditions that are being recommended for addition to DSM-5 by outside sources, such as mental health advocacy groups, that are still under consideration by the work groups. The following conditions are considered "under review," and work groups will make a recommendation about their inclusion after further assessing the evidence. The list that follows includes "Sensory Processing Disorder." Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation
About IsabellaDear Teachers, Caregivers and Staff,This is Isabella. Isabella was adopted through the Department of Children and Families. As a result of her prenatal experience, Isabella has SPD. This is not her fault. Isabella is my greatest joy and one of her father’s greatest joys, as he has three children. Isabella works well when she is praised and rewarded. She does not respond to negative reinforcement. She LOVES novelty. Isabella does not like loud noises. It feels like nails on a chalkboard would to any of us. She does not like it when people, other than her family, touch her. It feels like sandpaper on her skin (“Squeezey ouchiness”, as she says). 1-2-3 Magic works really well for Isabella, but NOTHING works when she is over-stimulated. Preventing the overstimulation is critical, as it is very difficult to calm her once she has been over-stimulated. When Isabella does not receive the correct care or sensory diet and she becomes over-stimulated, she will behave in a VERY negative way. This is not her choice. She cannot control this, even though she smiles when she is behaving this way. Learning is hard for Isabella because it is difficult for her to pay attention to important lessons, when she finds so many things distracting to her . Sitting still is a huge task. People, close to her who are moving, make her feel as though they are about to hurt or hit her. This is very stressful. When Isabella receives the correct care and sensory diet, she is the most wonderful, happy, and special little girl. One, who we know ,you will enjoy. Isabella is so much more than her disability. Isabella is a wonderful daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin and friend. She loves nature and reading. She is very bright. With your help, her future will be bright, too. Please treat her with the care, kindness and understanding that you would want for your child. Please try to help our child; having SPD is a very tough road to travel on. Please help to make it easier . We promise, the rewards will be plentiful. With our cooperative help, Isabella will have a very typical life. With our cooperative help, as she grows, she will learn to manage SPD . Communication with us is critical to her success. Because we have studied SPD and we know our child, we can be an amazing resource. Isabella works much better in school, if we are involved. If you call us, we can help. Please call. With Great Care and Concern, Isabella’s Mom and Dad