Sensory Processing

Have you ever been to a concert and felt like you should have been having the time of your life but it felt like you were on overload?  The music is so loud you feel like it is inside of you.  Everybody is touching you.  The strobe lights are making you dizzy.  You can’t even begin to focus on the band because you feel like you are 2 seconds from exploding.

You go home and have the worst sleep of your life because your body cannot calm itself.

Have you ever been to a meeting and you cannot keep your eyes awake.  You’re interested in the topic and you know it is important but your body just wont cooperate.  You shake your foot; you bite your nails and twirl your pen, to no avail as you disrupt everyone in the meeting.

Imagine that your 5 years old feels like this when he is in school, at home, at a birthday party or with friends and family.    Sensory processing is our body’s ability to take in sensory information (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, hearing) from the environment, process that information and produce an appropriate motor response.  These responses make up the skills sets we use to learn, play and grow.  If a breakdown in any part of this system (taking information in, processing information or producing a response) occurs, a child’s ability to participate in daily life is disrupted.

The senses one typically thinks of are: taste, hearing, smell, vision and touch.  There are two other important senses we use everyday: vestibular and proprioception.

Vestibular system- This system uses receptors in our inner ear to tell us where our body is in space.  It affects our balance and motion

Proprioceptive system:  This system uses our muscles, ligaments and joints to tell us where and how our body is moving in space

Our sensory systems need to work together to discriminate and organize input.

Children can be under or over reactive to any combination of sensory system. A breakdown in one system can affect the functioning of other systems.  These systems work in conjunction to help us motor plan our way through a day.

Some examples of RED FLAGS for sensory integration are:

Motor Planning/Praxis

  • Difficulty moving body in space
  • Difficulty discriminating right/left, up/down, under/over
  • Difficulty labeling body parts
  • Difficulty moving body in motor tasks (e.g. not coordinating body together for jumping jacks, crab walking…)
  • Difficulty following multi step directions
  • Difficulty imitating body postures (mirroring)
  • Poor sense of direction
  • Clumsy, bumping into objects

Sensory Functioning (Tactile)

  • Dislikes being touched by other
  • Resistant to touching messy textures (e.g. glue, shaving cream, fingerpainting)
  • Dislikes hair washing/hair brushing
  • Craves touch (will touch everything)
  • Will be extremely picky with clothing (will only wear certain textures)
  • Over-reacts to unexpected touch

Sensory Functioning (Vestibular/Proprioception)

  • Craves movement, can’t sit still
  • Fearful of movement (e.g. swings, slides…)
  • Fearful of being off the ground (jungle gym, fearful of stairs, climbing)
  • Craves deep pressure
  • Complains of dizziness, nausea after movement activities
  • Difficulty keeping still when in a line (touching people, shoving, kicking)

Please contact us if you feel your child may present with a sensory dysfunction or if you have any questions.