What if any everyday sound, like a car starting, caused you pain?
Imagine trying to walk or run while having almost no sense balance or where your limbs were.
These concepts may seem completely unrelated, but both can be symptoms of sensory processing disorder.
Here at Little Feet Therapy, one of the pediatric therapy specialties we offer is treatment for sensory processing disorder. If your child is struggling with this disorder, or you suspect they may have it, we can help.
Below, we’ll explore what a sensory processing disorder is, the signs and symptoms, and how occupational and physical therapy can help children struggling with sensory processing disorder.
Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Individuals with sensory processing disorder have trouble processing information that comes from the senses and knowing how to react to that information.
In some cases, the impacts of a sensory processing disorder can be extremely overwhelming.
For example, imagine the sound of your vacuum cleaner feeling so overwhelming it causes you to want to scream or vomit.
In other instances, an individual with a sensory processing disorder may seem unresponsive to what they feeling.
Like, for example, if someone put an ice cube down your back, but you didn’t flinch or react to the cold.
Sensory processing disorders are usually observed in children, but adults can be affected by them as well.
Sensory processing disorder can impact only one or many of the following senses:
- Smell (scent)
- Balance and coordination
- Gross motor skills control
- Interoception (sensations from inside the body, such as a heartbeat)
Are you concerned your child might be dealing with a sensory processing disorder?
In this next section, we’ll take a deeper look at the signs and symptoms of sensory processing disorder.
Sensory Processing Disorder Symptoms
Did you know that some children show the signs of a sensory processing from the time they’re a baby?
They might be fussy or difficult and as they develop they may frequently demonstrate anxiety or throw tantrums.
These signs alone are not cause for concern, however. Many children can be cranky, and there are many different reasons for it.
A diagnosis for sensory processing disorder usually comes when the symptoms become severe enough to cause problems in everyday life and affect normal functioning.
What might these severe symptoms look like?
Some children may show an extreme sensitivity to stimulation like noises, smells or touch.
They may react with pain when hugged, constantly cry or hide when they hear certain noises, or throw up from a particular smell.
You know that awful feeling some people get when they hear nails on a chalkboard?
Imagine feeling that way just from someone’s shirt touching your skin or from the texture or smell of a food most people enjoy.
Other signs of a sensory processing disorder can include:
- Having trouble with crawling, standing or walking.
- Having difficulties with distractions, especially when in the classroom or learning new things.
- Seeming clumsy or uncoordinated.
- Wanting to engage in rough play.
- Displaying abnormal reaction or no reaction to heat, cold or pain.
Autistic children often demonstrate the signs and symptoms of sensory processing disorder, but a child or adult can have sensory processing disorder without having autism.
However, there is an overlap, and as a result pediatric therapy treatments for autism spectrum disorder often overlap with treatment for sensory processing disorder.
In this next section we’ll look at the causes of sensory processing disorder.
What Causes Sensory Processing Disorder?
At this point, you might be wondering if there is anything you can do to prevent sensory processing disorder from developing.
The exact causes of sensory processing disorder are still unknown, however, one study has shown that hypersensitivity to light and sound may have a genetic component.
While the causes of sensory processing disorder are unclear, the good news is there are treatments that can benefit a child struggling with this condition.
Keep reading to learn about how occupational therapy might help your child if they have sensory processing disorder.
How Can Occupational Therapy For Sensory Processing Disorder Help?
Pediatric occupational therapy can benefit people with sensory processing disorder in a number of ways.
First, your occupational therapist will evaluate your child to better understand what they’re sensitive to.
Since sensory processing disorder can affect certain senses in one child, but other senses in another, there’s no “one size fits all” approach to treatment.
Once your occupational therapist understands your child’s individual needs, they can help create an appropriate treatment plan.
Part of this work may involve incorporating a sensory diet.
We’ve all heard diets based on nutritional intake, but what exactly is a sensory diet?
A sensory diet focuses on physical actions that can help your child process stimulation or cope appropriately when they feel over stimulated.
Do you ever get super stressed out or anxious and decide to go outside for a walk or take some deep breathes before you get to the point of breaking down?
When you take those actions, you’re helping your body and mind find balance.
Similarly, a sensory diet gradually introduces activities in order to help a child ease into a range of sensations and work towards balance.
The right diet provides the right amount of stimulation.
Sensory diets can be explored during therapy and replicated at home for further practice.
Occupational therapy can also help you as the parents of a child with sensory processing disorder better understand how your child is experiencing the world.
Ultimately, working with an occupational therapist can help your child learn to function with greater ease in school, at home, and in life.
How Can Physical Therapy For Sensory Processing Disorder Help?
While there’s no doubt any type of therapy is work, a big part of the therapeutic process for children with sensory processing disorder involves play.
Through pediatric physical therapy, children can be exposed to different stimuli in a safe environment.
They may explore a number of different play-based experiences such as water play, swinging or climbing.
The different activities and interaction with different stimuli can help the child slowly get used to the things they can’t tolerate.
This is called a sensory integration approach.
Physical therapy through sensory integration can help a child better develop their relating, communicating and thinking skills.
Explore the next steps to treatment for your child
Sensory processing disorder can be overwhelming for children and parents alike, but with the appropriate intervention and support symptoms can be managed successfully.
Book your appointment with Little Feet therapy today.