sensory processing

  • Does Your Child Have (Sensory) Issues?

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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
    include:

    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
    include:

    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, OTR/L, The Smart Play
    Curator

    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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  • Summertime Safety

    Summertime is a great opportunity for children to
    explore and challenge their growing bodies to reach new heights, but it is also
    a time when safety is of great importance. June is National Safety Month and the greatest concern parents have in the
    summertime is heat exposure. There are numerous articles that discuss hot car
    and water safety as well as the need for sunscreen and insect repellant when
    temperatures rise.  Many parents,
    however, are not aware that high temperatures and humidity indirectly can lead
    to accidents, the number one cause of childhood injury. According to a 2000
    journal article in the American Academy of Pediatrics, “exercising
    children do not adapt as effectively as adults when exposed to a high climatic
    heat stress. This may affect their performance and well-being, as well as
    increase the risk for heat-related illness.”

    With very hot weather and humidity, the body’s natural
    cooling system can fail and lead to issues like muscle cramps, exhaustion, and
    dehydration. Because children tend to ignore symptoms when they are having fun,
    they need reminders from caretakers to prevent injuries and accidents that can
    occur when their bodies are not functioning normally and are inclined to take
    more risks.

    In addition, time spent with water play and on outdoor
    equipment such as slides, swings, and obstacles courses can also affect the child’s
    vestibular system. This is located in the inner ear and provides a sense of
    balance and spatial orientation. With excessive movement or excessive water in
    the ear canals, this system can cause dizziness, loss of balance, and
    nausea.  

    What can you do to help?

    Step 1. Identify
    Symptoms. These can include: irritability, headaches, increased thirst or
    sweating, weakness, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, frequent falls, or cool/clammy
    skin.

    Step 2.  Provide Reminders. These can include: rest, removal
    of excess clothing, drinking water or sports drinks, and seeking cooler areas
    in shady or indoor, air-conditioned areas.

    Remember to consult with your child’s physician if
    symptoms appear to last for long periods of time. You can also see an
    occupational therapist if symptoms of an abnormal vestibular system appear
    regularly. I hope you find these tips helpful. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

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

    Continue reading