Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder in Children: A Guide for Parents

Our role as parents is to ensure that we understand and support our children in every aspect of their lives. However, there are times that we have to dig deeper, such as when a child has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

With so many children and adults being diagnosed with Spectrum and other environmental disorders increasing each year, more information and help are available to families than ever before. Whether you want to start your journey through an SPD diagnosis with a simple audio test at Hear Canada or talk to your pediatrician about SPD, you will find the help you need to support your child. Let’s take a closer look at a broader description of SPD, the signs and indications to look for in your child, and how to get the diagnosis and treatment you need.

What Is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

People with Sensory Processing Disorder, also known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction, suffer from sensory processing disorders due to how their brains process and react to the outside world. SPD is characterized by an overwhelming amount of sensory signals that we ignore or easily adapt to, leading to many problems at home for kids.

The symptoms of SPD include hypersensitivity to touch and sound, difficulty with motor coordination, and difficulty with self-regulation. SPD can cause children to struggle with daily activities such as getting dressed and brushing their teeth. An early diagnosis and intervention in SPD can help children reach their full potential.

Symptoms and Signs

Sensory Processing Disorder in Children
Source: sensorymom.com

SPD can manifest in a wide range of symptoms, varying greatly from one child to another. Some common signs of sensory processing issues in children may include:

  1. Over-Sensitivity (Sensory Avoidance): Children with SPD may exhibit an extreme response to certain sensory stimuli, such as loud noises, bright lights, certain textures, or strong smells. They may become overwhelmed, anxious, or fearful and actively avoid or seek escape. They may also show an unusually low tolerance for pain or have difficulty falling asleep due to a heightened level of sensitivity to their environment. It can also manifest itself in the form of avoiding physical contact with others.
  2. Under-Sensitivity (Sensory Seeking): It is also possible that some children with SPD might seek sensory input excessively when they are under-sensitive. They may engage in repetitive behaviors, seek intense physical sensations, or display impulsive behavior. They might have a high tolerance for pain or need movement and sensory stimulation. They may enjoy loud sounds, strong tastes, and overwhelming visual stimuli. In addition to this, they may also have difficulty calming down and may be easily distracted by outside factors.
  3. It’s common for children with SPD to have trouble distinguishing and interpreting sensory information. They cannot differentiate sounds, smells, tastes, textures, or temperatures. A child’s ability to focus, follow instructions, or engage in social interactions can be affected by a lot of things. A person with this condition might have trouble with activities of daily living, including dressing, eating, and self-care. It might also have trouble with schoolwork, including completing tasks or interacting with other people.
  4. As well as having motor coordination problems, SPD kids can also have difficulties in riding a bike, catching a ball, or tying their shoes, as well. The challenges may make them less likely to participate in physical activities due to these difficulties, which will slow down their motor development as a whole. As parents, we can assist our children in overcoming these difficulties by giving them extra practice and support. Furthermore, by creating a supportive and understanding environment, we are able to assist our children to cope with these difficulties as best we can. As well as occupational therapy, other types of intervention can be used to help.

Treatment and Support

It is possible to support children with Sensory Processing Disorder through a variety of strategies and therapies. These strategies and treatments can vary depending on the individual needs and symptoms of the child. The following are some of the commonly used techniques and therapies for helping children with Sensory Processing Disorders:

  • Sensory integration therapy involves working with an occupational therapist specializing in sensory processing disorder. The therapist will slowly help the child develop sensory processing skills by creating a tailored program. Various activities may be incorporated into the therapy that will provide controlled sensory input to the child in order to help them regulate their responses and develop more effective coping strategies.
  • A child’s sensory experiences can be significantly improved if changes are made to their environment. As part of this process, creating a calm, organized, and predictable environment may be necessary, eliminating visual and auditory distractions and providing sensory-friendly tools and resources at home or school.
  • It is essential to understand that a sensory diet is a schedule of activities tailored to each child to provide them with the right sensory input throughout the day. It is possible to incorporate sensory breaks into the program, engage in specific activities to meet sensory needs or use sensory tools like fidget toys, weighted blankets, or noise-canceling headphones as part of the program.
  • In order to ensure that your child receives appropriate support in the classroom, it is crucial to ensure that you maintain open communication and collaboration with your child’s educators. By providing information about your child’s sensory challenges, recommending strategies that work for them, as well as exploring accommodations or modifications, you can greatly enhance their learning experience.
  • Educating yourself about SPD can help you better understand your child’s needs and support him or her in a more effective way. Parents can gain valuable insights and a sense of community from participating in support groups or seeking advice from professionals when they encounter similar challenges.

Sensory Processing Disorder can significantly impact a child’s daily life and ability to engage with the world. Recognizing the signs and seeking appropriate support is vital to helping your child thrive. By understanding the unique sensory needs of your child, exploring therapies, and making environmental adjustments, you can provide them with the tools and resources they need to navigate the world more comfortably.