Welcome to our comprehensive guide on sensory processing issues in children with special educational needs. As a parent or caregiver, understanding these issues and knowing how to support your child is essential.
Let’s explore what sensory processing issues are, and how they manifest in children, and provide practical strategies for support.
Understanding Sensory Processing Issues
Sensory processing refers to how our nervous system receives and interprets sensory information from the environment. For some children, their sensory system may be over- or under-reactive, leading to challenges in processing and responding to sensory stimuli. These challenges can impact their daily functioning and overall well-being. Children with special educational needs, including ADHD, OCD, autism, or developmental delays, are more likely to experience sensory processing issues.
Recognizing Sensory Processing Issues
During the toddler years, observe if your child shows aversions to noise, light, or certain textures.
Notice signs of clumsiness, difficulty with fine motor skills, and challenges with coordination.
Look for dramatic mood swings, tantrums, or excessive reactions to changes in the environment.
Internal Senses and Their Impact
The sensory system encompasses various internal and external senses. Internal senses include:
Proprioception: The sense of body awareness and position
Children who are hypersensitive may struggle with understanding their body's position and applying the right amount of force. Children who are hypersensitive crave input; they love jumping, bumping, and crashing activities, as well as deep pressure such as that provided by tight bear hugs.
Vestibular: The sense of balance and spatial orientation
This sensitivity contributes to balance and spatial orientation. Hypersensitive children may seek intense movement experiences, while hypersensitive children may exhibit fear or avoidance of activities requiring good balance. Such as climbing on playground equipment, riding a bike, or balancing on one foot. They, too, may appear clumsy.
A sensory checklist
To help parents determine if their child’s behavior indicates serious sensory issues, Peske and Biel have created a detailed sensory checklist that covers responses to all types of input, from walking barefoot to smelling objects that aren’t food, as well as questions involving fine and gross motor function, such as using scissors (fine) and catching a ball (gross).
To identify possible sensory processing issues in your child, consider the following checklist:
Does your child have heightened or diminished reactions to sensory stimuli?
Does your child seek or avoid certain sensory experiences?
Does your child display difficulties with motor skills, attention, or emotional regulation?
Does your child have challenges with transitions or changes in routines?
Does your child exhibit unusual behaviors or responses to sensory input?
Supporting Children with Sensory Issues
Create a Sensory-Friendly Environment:
Provide a calm and organized physical space.
Use visual schedules and timers to help with transitions.
Offer a variety of sensory experiences, such as a sensory bin or a quiet area.
Develop Sensory Coping Strategies:
Help your child identify and communicate their sensory needs.
Teach deep breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques.
Offer sensory tools like fidget toys or weighted blankets for comfort.
Support Daily Routines:
Establish predictable routines to provide a sense of stability.
Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps to reduce overwhelm.
Use visual supports like checklists or visual schedules for clarity.
Advocate for Sensory-Friendly Spaces:
Work with teachers, therapists, and community organizations to create sensory-friendly environments.
Educate others about sensory processing issues and your child's unique needs.
Treating Sensory Processing Issues:
Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapists can help develop sensory processing skills, improve motor coordination, and provide sensory integration therapy.
Speech Therapy: Speech therapists can address sensory-related issues that impact speech and language development.
Behavior Therapy: Behavior therapists can assist in managing challenging behaviors related to sensory issues.
Understanding and supporting children with sensory processing issues is vital for their well-being and development. By recognizing the signs, creating sensory-friendly environments, developing coping strategies, and seeking appropriate therapies, you can empower your child to thrive.
Remember, each child is unique, so be patient, and flexible, and seek professional guidance when needed. Together, let's create a world that embraces and supports the diverse sensory needs of all children.