Does Your Child Have (Sensory) Issues?

April 06, 2016
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As the number of children diagnosed in the United States increases each year, so does the public’s awareness of autism and its symptoms. Sensory processing problems, also referred to as “sensory issues,” are one of the most common symptoms of autism. They, however, can be experienced in children without the other criteria required for an autism diagnosis, which include communication difficulties, social challenges, and repetitive behaviors.

Sensory processing is defined as the way the nervous system receives information from the senses and interprets it into motor and behavioral responses. Sensory issues occur when the body has a response that is considered to be outside of the normal range. For example, a child may be overly sensitive to light and may not be able to tolerate brightly lit supermarket. This may cause the child to act out or have “issues.” When a child has responses that seriously affect or interfere with everyday life, a diagnosis such as Sensory Processing Disorder may be given.

Everybody knows the five senses of sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. Yet, sensory input also can be received from the sense of balance and spatial orientation in movement (vestibular sense) and the sense of position and strength needed in movement (proprioceptive sense). When a child is hyper-responsive, that means he or she demonstrates a low or hyposensitivity. When a child is hypo-responsive, that means he or she demonstrates a high or hypersensitivity.

Examples of Hyposensitivity 

Touches people or things excessively or when not appropriate

Craves movement and/or has difficulty remaining still

May harm others by not recognizing his or her own strength

Does not respond to requests or name being called

Examples of Hypersensitivity 

Easily distracted or annoyed by background noises

Avoids or is fearful of playground equipment like swings or monkey bars

Walks on tiptoes or is hesitant to walk on sand or grass

Very particular about clothing or food textures

Occupational therapists (OTs) specialize in helping children regulate the sensory system through sensory integration therapy. If your child has disruptive sensory issues, consider consulting with your pediatrician about prescribing an evaluation with an OT who can create and implement a plan specific to your child. I hope you find this information helpful. Have a playful day!

Amy Baez,  MOT, OTR/L

Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and Founder of Playapy. For more information about Playapy services and products, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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