Imagine you are on a train reading a book. There is a baby crying behind you, lights are flashing, there are the sounds of other trains passing by, a woman wearing perfume is sitting next to you, people are bumping into you, cell phones are ringing, and you feel the movement of the train. There are multiple sensory experiences happening, yet you are able to filter all these things out and still read and understand your book. Imagine if your sensory system was not able to filter out all these different sights, sounds, smells, and movement. You would not be able to read your book at all. This is what children with sensory processing disorder experience every day.
Sensory processing is the child's ability to take in sensory input from the environment, interpret the information, and produce a desirable outcome. There are seven different types of sensory input: tactile (touch), gustatory (smell), taste, auditory (hearing), vision, vestibular (movement), and proprioception (awareness of where you body is). When a child's sensory system is working properly, he or she is able to focus on a task and filter out irrelevant noises, are fully aware of the position of their body, demonstrate alertness when need be, and can calm themselves independently. When their sensory system is not interpreting information properly, a child may demonstrate a hypersensitivity (increased) and/or hyposensitivity (decreased) in one or more of the sensory areas. For example, a child may demonstrate a hyposensitive behavior by not reacting to his name being called, but may be hypersensitive to sounds by covering his/her ears or becoming upset to certain sounds such as sirens, vacuum, blender, etc. The following are examples in each area:
Hypersensitive -doesn't like to be messy, pulls on clothes, removes clothes, becomes upset during bath time, doesn't like to have teeth brushed or nails cut, etc.
Hyposensitive -seeks out textures, touches everything, likes to be messy, doesn't notice food on face, etc.
Hypersensitive -covers nose with certain smells, refuses to eat foods because of smell, gags at certain smells, etc.
Hyposensitive - doesn't seem to notice noxious smells, complains of not being able to taste foods
Hypersensitive - shows aversion to foods, gags when food is presented, attempts to get food off tongue, etc.
Hyposensitive - mouths objects, chews on non-edible items, complains of not being able to taste foods, etc.
Hypersensitive - covers ears, becomes upset with certain sounds such as vacuum, blender, sirens, notices sounds you cannot hear, etc.
Hyposensitive - does not respond to name, does not follow commands, appears confused at directions, etc.
Hypersensitive -easily becomes dizzy, doesn't like to be moved quickly, doesn't like fast moving objects, avoids brightly colored T.V., etc.
Hyposensitive -enjoys brightly colored fast moving T.V. shows, flicks objects in front of face, etc.
Hypersensitive -does not like to be moved, doesn't like to be flipped upside down, becomes upset when feet are off the ground, doesn't like to swing, etc.
Hyposensitive -climbs on tables, jumps on the couch and/or bed, runs around the house, constantly on the go, etc.
PROPRIOCEPTION (awareness of body position)
Hyposensitive - clumsy, awkward movements, bumps into things, trips easily, etc.
Although most people have certain sensations that they dislike, it does not interfere with their daily activites. Children who present with a sensory processing disorder are impacted daily by different sensations. Many children become upset when they are touched, moved, or hear sounds or they may not seem to notice these different sensations at all. They may struggle in school because they are unable to filter out all the different sensory experiences in order to focus on the academics.
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