Sensory processing disorder is a neurological health condition affecting children that impede the way the brain processes information from the sensory organs. Children with this disorder may be oversensitive to or never respond to sensory inputs and this depends on how they are affected. Few of the sensory inputs involved include:
Generally, children with sensory issues may have an aversion to certain things that can overstimulate their senses like loud sounds, very bright lights, or strong smells. Read on to learn more about the causes and symptoms of sensory processing disorder and how it can be treated.
What Is Sensory Processing?
Sensory processing is divided into eight main types, which include:
Proprioception: This is the internal sense of awareness one has for their body, and it helps to maintain posture and control movements.
Vestibular: This refers to the inner ear spatial identification that helps to maintain balance and coordination.
Interception: The sense of realising what’s happening within the system. It includes the way one feels hot or cold and whether one fee their emotions.
And other common five senses involved include touch, hearing, taste, smell, and sight.
Medical experts believe that sensory problems are mostly related to another condition or disorder like autism spectrum disorder. This term is more largely used in the field of occupational therapy.
Generally, the symptoms of sensory processing disorders depend on the way a child processes different sensation.
Children who are easily stimulated may have hypersensitivity and increased sensitivity to inputs such as light, sound and touch. These sensations affect them more and make them lose interest in the presence of too much sensory information or never respond.
Further, children may also be hyposensitivity, and this means they have decreased sensitivity to sensory output.
Sensory hypersensitivity may cause:
- Poor pain threshold
- Running without regard to safety
- Closing eyes or ears often
- Picky eating habits
- Avoiding hugs or sudden touches
- Hard in controlling their emotions
- Lack of focus and attention
- Difficulty adjusting responses
- Behaviour issues
Children who are hyposensitive have decreased sensitivity crave interaction with the world around them and engage more with their surroundings to receive more sensory feedback. Thus, making them appear hyperactive and simply be pretend to make their senses more engaged.
Sensory hyposensitivity may cause:
- High threshold for pain
- Hitting into walls
- Touching things
- Putting things into their mouth
- Accepting hugs
- Failing into other people or things
- Not considering personal space
The exact cause of sensory issues in children is still not known. However, researchers believe that it may be something to do with the way the sensory pathways in the brain process and organize information. This issue is quite common in autistic people. Further, a recent study reveals that sensory processing disorder may be associated with prenatal or birth complications such as
Low birth weight
Alcohol or drug consumption during pregnancy
Overexposure to certain chemicals
Some of the conditions or disorders connected to sensory issues include:
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): In this condition, a person may experience changes to the neural pathways in the brain responsible for processing sensory information.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): This disorder affects the ability to process unnecessary sensory information and can lead to sensory overload.
Schizophrenia: In schizophrenic patient an unusual mechanism in the brain’s sensory pathway and in the way it creates and organizes connections between neurons can cause altered sensory and motor processing.
Sleep Disorders: Generally, sleep deprivation may result in delirium, which can cause temporary sensory processing issues.
Brain Injury: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be another possible cause of sensory processing disorder.
Generally, health care professionals use questionnaires to assess and understand a child's sensory functioning.
There's no standard treatment for sensory processing issues. However, doctors or therapists help children to handle problems processing sensory information. They observe the child's behaviours and interactions and determine best possible treatment outcome to support them.
Some of the therapies that may improve the child's behaviour include:
An occupational therapist assists a child to learn or practice to do activities, that child normally avoids due to sensory issues.
A physical therapist helps to develop a sensory diet regimen that is specially designed to satisfy the craving for sensory input.