Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sensory Processing Disorder: What you should know!

When parents are new to the diagnosis of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) or other medical diagnosis that have sensory processing deficits as a characteristic, it can be overwhelming to hear so many professional terms and understand what it all means.  As a Speech-Language-Pathologist, I have worked with several children with sensory processing difficulties and wonderful OTs (Occupational Therapists) and COTAs (Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants) that aided in my understanding of the complexities of sensory processing.  I will attempt to impart their knowledge as clear and concisely as I can.

(NOTE:  Often, sensory integration and sensory processing as well as sensory integration dysfunction and sensory processing disorder are used interchangeably.  Therefore, I have used them interchangeably as well.  In addition, I do NOT specialize in sensory integration and am writing this blog for educational purposes only.  I recommend that you speak to an OT that specializes in sensory integration if you have additional questions and concerns.)

What is Sensory Processing?
Simply put, sensory processing is a complex process in which our brains understand what is going on inside our bodies as well as in our external environment through the use of our senses. 
Sensory processing is affected by two things: 
1.       The way our brain responds to sensory input
2.      Our self-regulation strategies (how we use strategies to manage this sensory input).
Keep in mind that sensory processing is a continuum and that we all require proprioceptive (physical, external) feedback to regulate our sensory system.  What we are really concerned about is one’s extreme responses to sensory input and the negative affect these responses have on a person’s ability to communication and participate in daily living activities.
The blow powerpoint presentation will further explain sensory processing vs. sensory processing disorder.

How do I know if my child has difficulty processing sensory information?
Below is a link to a checklist also adapted from Carol Stock Kranowitz’s book, Out-of-Sync Child.  This checklist is very detailed and examines several areas of processing including tactile, vestibular, proprioceptive, auditory, oral input, olfactory, visual input, auditory-language processing, and social-emotional play and self-regulation.  You place a checkmark next to the characteristics your child exhibits. 
IF you feel your child exhibits numerous characteristics in one or more areas, please follow up on your concerns by contacting an OT that has experience in sensory integration.  They can perform a complete evaluation and make recommendations.

Check out Sensory Processing Disorder website for a complete checklist on sensory processing disorder.

Is it important for my child to receive OT for sensory processing disorder?
ABSOLUTELY!  Sensory processing disorder CAN and WILL affect all areas of growth for your child (cognitive, academic, executive functions, social skills, communication, etc.).  If you have concerns about your child’s sensory processing skills, it is imperative that you contact an OT with experience in sensory integration dysfunction in order to determine your child’s needs as well as an appropriate plan of treatment.

Happy Talking!!!

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