Sensory processing disorder is a common condition for children on the autism spectrum. Does your child have it? Let’s learn more about this disorder and what you can do to help your child from today’s guest post contributor, Susan Donohoe OTR/L, Certificate in Sensory Integration.
Sensory processing is the brain’s way of processing and interpreting sensations within one’s own body and from the environment. It’s how we organize and interpret sensory input for everyday use, hence behavior. This is known as sensory integration.
Modulation is a term you may hear from your child’s doctor or therapist. It describes the neurological process in which the child’s central nervous system appropriately regulates or adjusts responses to changing external and internal sensory input.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
When this modulation is not working well, your child may have sensory processing disorder (SPD). He may seem overwhelmed by sensory stimuli or completely unresponsive to it – or both. An example is if your child jumps if small blocks fall over or if he seems oblivious to the cold. Sensory processing disorder is diagnosed when this when this behavior interferes with a child’s “occupation” in life (play, school, attention, etc.).
It’s important to note that everyone has some sensory processing problems from time to time. Sensory stimuli can temporarily disrupt anyone’s normal functioning.
The three main sensory systems we are referring to include:
- Tactile and touch systems which influence motor control and emotional development.
- Proprioception, the sensation you feel through your own muscles, ligaments, and skin. It gives a sense of body position, organization, and calibration of movement.
- Vestibular, the sense of movement and gravity. This specifically refers to postural control, muscle tone, coordinated use of both sides of the body, coordinating eye movements, etc..
Other sensory systems include olfactory (smell), auditory, visual, and gustatory (taste).
Sensory Processing Disorder Affects Kids Differently
Sensory processing disorder is individual to each child diagnosed with it. Some kids may have greater difficulty functioning in life due to SPD than others. It is important to note that symptoms vary and not all need to be present. Additionally, children with neurological dysfunction can show symptoms one day and not the next, or during one activity and not another.
If your child is diagnosed with SPD, you will likely be referred to a Sensory Certified Occupational Therapist is trained in diagnosing and treating this disorder. A good therapist will provide your child with a safe and challenging level of sensory stimulation that encourages movement. This helps focus your child on tolerating and integrating different sensory inputs. His interests and the “occupation” of play often drive the session. In addition, therapy includes making environmental adaptations, such as in the home and school.
Some Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder Include:
As mentioned above, making adaptations within the child’s everyday life is also a part of understanding the child. One of the child’s “occupations” is self-care such as dressing.
DRESSING FOR SUCCESS WITH SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER!
Everyone Has Sensory Issues
Every child deserves to feel comfortable and beautiful in their clothing. What if that same clothing could also address sensory discomfort and provide therapeutic input? That can improve your child’s image of himself and how he feels in his environment! Furthermore, it could enhance his social and emotional quality of life because he now feels organized and calm.
We all have sensory qualities that make us who we are, however, these neurological qualities can interrupt our lives in a negative way. There are many children with different diagnoses that have sensory issues, such as being overly sensitive, lacking sensory input, motor difficulties, and social differences. Some of those diagnoses include autism, ADHD, anxiety, and other developmental disabilities. Why not make their clothing possess some of the very qualities that can help improve their social and emotional well being?
Kids Find SPD Too Distracting
As a mother of a child who suffered from sensory processing disorder and as a long time Sensory Pediatric Occupational Therapist and advocate, I know first- and it is not easy for our children.
Many kids with sensory processing disorder suffer from preoccupations with:
- tactile discomfort
- a desire to chew
- difficulty with spatial awareness
- difficulty with motor skills
- hyper- or hypo-activity
- social and emotional difficulties
Parents Can Help Their Kids With Weighted Clothing & Other Items
Parents, therapists, and educators often express to me the benefits of weighed garments, chew objects, compression garments, and a child’s desire for soft materials but hey frequently complain that what is offered to them is too” therapeutic” looking. It’s hard to use many of these garments throughout “normal” life without standing out or being stigmatized.
Clothing and toys that are beautiful, functional, and unique should be available for parents and their children. Their likes and style should be taken into consideration as well as their ability to take some therapeutic items with them anywhere they go.
When a garment is being constructed to address children who suffer sensory processing disorder, special consideration should be made to address the following:
- ease of function
- tactile sensitivity,
- relevant design
- consistency in design for spatial orientation
- proprioceptive input, that is the unconscious awareness of sensations coming from receptors in your child’s joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments
This can help promote your child’s independence as well as organization, alertness, and simplicity.
When choosing a weighted vest or blanket, it’s important to hear the child ask specifically for the one that is soft, cool, or nice. It is equally important to provide parents with beautiful, easy-to-use, and superior fabrics that are relevant and stylish. Kids should be able to access products that don’t stigmatize them.
Effective Sensory Strategies
Using proper sensory strategies can help a child with sensory processing disorder, therefore, considering the aspects of their clothing is a great way that parents can help their child. It lets him know that you understand and accept what he is feeling!
Respect, pleasure, playfulness, comfort, and a feeling of security are aspects that can be the fabric of their clothing! Above all, fashion with therapeutic value should express the darling nature and playfulness inherent in children.
Today’s guest post was authored by Susan Donohoe OTR/L, Certificate in Sensory Integration, who was the founder of Prince’s Sensory Delights, now Kozie’s Clothes, which specializes in clothing for children with SPD and special needs.
Shop for Kozie’s Clothes at my Amazon affiliate link:
(Or check my Autism Archive)