Our children who have sensory processing issues may be labeled as sensitive. Too loud. Too bright. Too noisy. Should you be concerned? Understand that our body process information from our senses. Some children may be more sensitive to certain “information”. Find out what it is and how parents can support your child.
What are Sensory Processing Issues?
The five senses that we are familiar with are touch, hearing, taste, smell and sight. However, there are also:
a. Proprioception – how we maintain our posture and how our body “occupy” a space
b. Vestibular – how we keep ourselves balanced and coordinated
c. Interoception – how we feel in our body (hot / cold, emotions)
Therefore, sensory processing issues could be how a person can be hypersensitive or hypo sensitive to any of the senses. For example, one child can have very high threshold of pain (when you noticed your child is bleeding but he or she was not aware of the injury). Alternatively, you may have a child who is covering eyes frequently when stepping into hot sunny day or shopping malls due to sensitivity to light.
Sensory Processing – Signs and Symptoms
As parents (or teachers), you may notice certain environment that may trigger a reaction from your child. Children may avoid or seek for certain sensory input, depending on whether they are hyper or hypo-sensitive. Sensory overload would generally lead to meltdowns unless your child learned to manage the overload. For children who are hypo-sensitive, they may seek certain input like sound or texture to help them manage their “input” of senses.
Some common signs and symptoms are:
- Meltdowns at places that are too crowded or noisy
- Refuses to wear new clothes or certain textures
- Only eat certain food texture
- Constantly touch objects
- High tolerance of pain
- Clumsy and uncoordinated
When should you be concerned?
Some signs and symptoms may taper off over time as your child build resistance and tolerance to the environment. However, if the behavior affects your child’s daily life, it is best for you to check in with your child’s doctor. Or when you are not able to manage your child’s behavior anymore, it is best to seek for professional help.
Who can help individuals with sensory processing issues?
Children with sensory issues will benefit from seeing occupational or physical therapist, depending on your child’s condition.
Occupational Therapy – Occupational therapists can assess your child’s condition and work with your child to regulate their sensory input.
Physical Therapy – Physical therapists can support your child in their muscle development, balancing and motor skills.
Treatment includes sensory integration therapy where the therapist will design an environment and put your child through to help him / her manage the environment. Your therapist may also include a sensory diet plan such as 10x twice a day palm and feet brushing or twice a day to sit in the swing for 10 minutes or 10 squats and jumping jacks a day.
What can you do to support your child with sensory processing issues?
Here are some suggestions of what you can do to support your child at home / about:
- Observe what may trigger your child – loud noise or bright lights. For loud noise, you can teach your child to express through gestures such as closing ears and get ear plugs for your child. For bright lights, get sunglasses for your child.
- Make sensory bottle or slime to help calm your child.
- Introduce new food slowly – try in small portion, consistently.
- Allow your child a fidget toy to play with when they feel restless / agitated
You can also explore more strategies to use at home from Understood.org Strategies You Can Try at Home
Children with sensory processing issues may be hypersensitive to one stimulant and hypo-sensitive to another. Always check in with your child’s doctor during their immunization check and seek their advice. You can also have your child assessed by certified occupational or physio-therapist. Your observation of your child’s behavior is important, therefore, keep a journal or log of the behavior – frequency, trigger, event before / after.
Contact us if you have any concern regarding your child’s development.