What Is Sensory Processing
What Is Sensory Processing and How Does it Affect Children?
Many of us suffer from sensory processing problems and don’t even know it. Sometime we think we are doing well, then we’re surprised by how our world around us is changing and we’re not able to keep up. Sensory processing is really the brain’s method of putting together the information that our body receives in a coherent way so that we can use that information to our advantage. In this way, the brain is really a super computer that can solve many of the day-to-day challenges.
Some sensory processing problems like concentration, balance, attention span, and memory can be the result of a serious accident that jarring you out of your equilibrium or altered your sensory input. Occupational therapists can help their patients with sensory issues by training them on sensory awareness techniques and skills that can improve their lives. An occupational therapist works with patients to restore their ability to function on a daily basis. Occupational therapists work with children, couples, individuals, and families to address sensory processing issues.
In order to effectively treat sensory processing issues, you have to identify the symptoms first. When I was younger, my primary attention span wasn’t very long at all and I had very slow reflexes. If something came in for me, I could sort of “sense” what was happening and react, but I didn’t really understand anything about the event itself. Because of this, I used a great deal of time looking for the problem when it came up instead of trying to heal myself. That’s why I dealt so well with most of my schoolwork assignments, but it also contributed to my developing anxiety disorder.
The five senses are our bodies’ way of telling us what’s going on. They include our sense of sight, our sense of hearing, our sense of touch, our sense of smell, and our sense of taste. Children with sensory processing disorder may not be able to utilize all five senses to the fullest extent that other children are able to. This is usually because they have difficulties interacting with others. Because they’ve been misdiagnosed with other disorders, their true disorder may not be properly identified.
Another issue associated with sensory issues is hyposensitivity. Hyposensitivity involves excessive sensitivity to physical stimuli. This means that your skin can ‘feel’ heat, cold, and wetness, all at the same time. Some children with sensory issues don’t even know they’re allergic to certain things or that they are sensitive to things like molds. Some kids even have allergic reactions to common house cleaners or certain foods.
Because children have different pain thresholds, they also have different threshold for pain. Your child’s pain threshold can range from being mildly uncomfortable to being extremely painful. Children with hyposensitive sensory organs have extremely high pain thresholds; they feel like a pinched nerve if the pain is very severe.
In most cases, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the sensory processing issues in a child. That’s why it’s important to get an evaluation by an occupational therapist. An occupational therapist can make sure that the child has not only normal levels of sensory processing but abnormal levels as well. A diagnosis of hyperactive tendencies, for example, could mean there is a problem with the central nervous system.
Children who are hyperactive have a number of problems from behavioral issues to intellectual skills to socialization issues. It’s important to have your child evaluated by an OT to rule out any sensory integration problems. If you think your child has sensory issues, you should let your child and his or her primary care physician know. You can also ask your child’s primary care physician about a referral for an individualized assessment. The specific assessment, your child gets will depend on a few factors, including the severity of the sensory issues, your child’s age and overall health at the time.