2022-06-10 23:23:00 By : Mr. Alex Zhang

Sensory processing disorder can impact the brain’s ability to receive, organize, or respond to sensory input via any of the eight senses. In children, SPD can impact behavior, learning, and everyday happiness. If your child experiences sensory issues, create a sensory profile to match their needs to appropriate supports. Here’s how.

Sensory processing is complicated — and occurs within all of us. Many of us have an aversion to strong smells, a sensitivity to bright lights, or a reaction to certain clothing textures. These sensitivities are amplified, however, in children with sensory processing disorder (SPD), who may be over- or under-responsive to sensory input, seek specific sensations, or struggle to discern sensory information altogether. For these kids, daily functioning and wellbeing hinge on sensory needs — and our ability to understand and anticipate them.

What’s the best way to do this? Create a sensory profile. Begin by mapping your child’s unique needs to each of their senses (hint: there are more than five). Then consider how to tailor their environment – through sensory toys, home accommodations, school services, and more – to support their strengths and needs.

Sensory processing is the neurology of how we feel.1 In this process, we receive information through the body’s various senses, organize it, and use it to make sense of and interact with the world around us.

You probably know about the following five senses:

The three lesser-known senses include the following:

[Get This Free Download: Could It Be Sensory Processing Disorder?]

Sensory processing disorder can impact the brain’s ability to receive, organize, or respond to sensory input via any of the eight senses, and it can include any of the following specific challenges:

Not many people realize that the sensory systems are foundational to development, functioning and wellbeing. Differences in sensory processing may undermine the acquisition of skills of a higher order – from behavior to learning. This is why sensory challenges in kids often manifest in school, show up as behavior problems, and make daily living difficult.

Start with the following four questions to build your child’s sensory profile.

1. What are your child’s strengths? What are their interests? Do they like to be outdoors? Do they like imaginative play? Do they like music?

2. What tends to dysregulate your child? What soothes or regulates them? Does your child…

[Read: Three Types of Sensory Disorders That Look Like ADHD]

3. How should you change your child’s environment and routines to honor their strengths and support their sensory needs? The following are a few ideas:

4. Could your child benefit from sensory toys and equipment?

1. Adopt a neurodiversity-affirming mindset. Accept that your child has unique strengths, needs, and challenges. (SPD falls under the umbrella of neurodivergence.) Avoid deliberately and unnecessarily exposing your child to uncomfortable sensory experiences. When we accommodate children with enhanced sensory needs, we help them feel safe, which gives them the confidence to explore the world around them.

2. Check in with your own senses. Even if you don’t have SPD, you still have sensory needs. Meet your needs so you can help your child meet theirs. Think about the eight senses as you understand your own sensory profile and what grounds you. Modeling self-regulation will help your child do the same.

3. Seek professional help. An occupational therapist (OT) is best suited to identify SPD and support your child’s sensory needs. (SPD is not in the DSM-5, but OTs use different diagnoses, like “unspecified disorder of the central nervous system,” to secure services.) Your child’s pediatrician may be able to write a referral to an OT or another specialist.

4. Have your child screened for co-occurring conditions. SPD often co-occurs with ADHD, autism, and other conditions, which may influence how sensory needs manifest.2

The content for this article was derived, in part, from the ADDitude ADHD Experts webinar titled, “What Is Your Child’s Sensory Profile? Strategies for Supporting Children with ADHD and SPD” [Video Replay and Podcast #394] with Candace Peterson, M.S., OTR/L which was broadcast live on March 30, 2022.

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1STAR Institute. Understanding sensory processing disorder. Retrieved from https://sensoryhealth.org/basic/understanding-sensory-processing-disorder

2 Miller, L. J., Schoen, S. A., Mulligan, S., & Sullivan, J. (2017). Identification of Sensory Processing and Integration Symptom Clusters: A Preliminary Study. Occupational Therapy International, 2017, 2876080. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2876080

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