Sensory problems of children and sensory processing disorder

Our sensory system comprises seven basic senses. That is vision, touch, taste, hearing, smell, balance, and joint positioning [proprioception].

We all are processing these senses through our nervous system.

That is mainly the central nervous system including the brain and the spinal cord.

When the brain does not process these senses properly, it may cause sensory problems in children.

Our brain acquires all senses and processes. Then respond to particular senses and give feedback to them.

It means we can identify certain tastes, smells, sounds, colors, and other associated senses.

We can identify those senses because we have prior experience with them and our brain will help to memorize those previous sensory experiences and get to feeling about them and finally respond to them.

Our mouth gets watering if we see or smell interesting food or smell of food. We respond happily when we hear the sound of our family member or friend.

Those activities are governed by the sensory system of our body.

But sometimes there may be some problems with this sensory processing phenomenon. These are more frequent among kids.

So our toddlers, pre-schoolers, schools, and teenagers are responding to these sensory stimulations in a different manner.

Sometimes we can see those among adults.

As parents or caregivers, we have to pay huge attention and effort in dealing with sensory processing as they can not express their needs and discomforts verbally or gesturally.

Home environments, school environments, or outer environments are full of senses. kids can not differentiate all sensory stimuli and respond to them respectively.

This article gives you a total and concise understanding and you can comment on important ideas.

The human sensory systems

Human beings have basic eight sensory systems in the body. These are sight, sound, touch, and taste as the five basic senses and another three senses additionally. All those are included in our sensory nervous system.

  1. Vision/sight

Vision helps us to interpret what we see. We see colors, shapes, words, numbers, and lighting which make up the environment around us.

Also, the visual sensory system also helps us to understand the nonverbal cues and track the movements.

If a certain kid is struggling to perceive visual stimuli, they struggle with distinguishing necessary information.

2. Tactile/touch

Our tactile sense helps us to respond to physical stimuli by using the receptors of the skin.

With the help of these receptors, we can feel the physical sensation in our body.

Also, we can detect whether the touch is safe or dangerous and then we can protect ourselves.

3. Olfactory/smell

The sense of olfactory is found to be connected to our memory and emotions. From past experience, certain smells can cause a person to feel frightened or relaxed.

4. Auditory /Sound

This sense helps us interpret what we hear around us. It includes the frequency of the sound we hear.

Our brain has the ability to hear the sounds and make sense of it and ultimately understand the speech.

The kids are having difficulty in sound processing and are unable to filter out the auditory information. They also have problems with attention

5. Gustatory/taste

We can identify the kinds of foods we like through the gustatory sense. Also, we have a sense of danger about food with this gustatory sense.

If your kid is a picky eater, he may have a problem in this sense. Also, these kids may have various taste preferences and they are sensitive to certain textures of foods.

6. Vestibular/body movements

This sense directly helps us to maintain body balance. Also it builds awareness about the space where we in.

A kid who is having difficulty in a vestibular sense may have problems in processing information and are more clumsy or bump into things.

It works along with the auditory and visual senses together and finally helps to establish balance, eye control, and coordination.

7. Proprioception/ Body Awareness

This sense works similarly to the vestibular systems. But this mainly refers to the relationship between each and every body part and the energy of the body.

The kids having proprioception problems may struggle to know where their muscles are located. Also, they don’t know how a body part responds to external stimuli.

8. Interoception

This sense relates to basic primary functions like hunger, toilet needs, or breathing. The kids may have difficulty in this sense and may not be aware that they are hungry or thirsty.

how we use our senses?

Sensory problems- types

Sensory problems are basically two types. This is very common in sensory processing disorders in both adults and kids

  1. Over sensitivity[Above to average sensory evel]
  2. under sensitivity[Below average sensory level].

Imagine all senses resemble a cup and water in it is the sensory input. So under sensitivity kids are like big mugs and need a lot of water to fill, which means they need many sensory impulses to achieve a saturated level.

Oversensitivity kids are like small cups and need little water drops to fill. Same as they need a very small amount of sensory impulses to achieve a saturated level

Various symptoms of sensory processing disorder

The symptoms are different among individuals differently. Mostly it impacts one sense. or multiple senses.

Also, the responses are different from one person to another by receiving various sensory information.

As an example, some SPD kids have excessive vomiting when they hear the sounds of motor traffic excessively.

Some kids react by screening to being touched. Another category reacts heavily to certain textures of cloths or foods.

Few types of children are not responding to any of the stimuli around them. Also, they may not respond to extreme heat, cold, or even pain.

In this way, we can identify basic two categories of sensory symptoms. Those are sensory overload symptoms and sensory seeking symptoms.

Sensory overload symptoms

  • overwhelmed easily with the people or places
  • Easily startled by the sounds
  • Refuse to try new foods
  • Having a very limited diet.
  • Easily bothered by light

Sensory-seeking symptoms:

  • Take physical risks more
  • play hardly
  • High tolerance to pain
  • Clumsy and uncoordinated most of the time.
  • often fighting
  • Constantly moving

Difference between Autism and the sensory processing disorder

We can identify a few differences. autistic kids have mostly disrupted their brain connectivity and sensory processing kids don’t have a such disruption in their brains.

Autistic kids also struggle with social and emotional pathways. So they have a lot of social skills development problems in day to the daily life cycle.

Mostly SPD kids have more touch sensory problems more than autistic kids. Also, autistic kids struggle more with the sounds rather than SPD kids.

Problems with vision and hearing

Visual under-sensitivity behaviors of kids

  • watching towards moving objects every time
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Mostly showing sensory-seeking behaviors

Visual over-sensitivity behaviors of kids

  • When they see a picture they concern with small details of it (such as a particular place or dot or colored area). THEY DO NOT SEE THE WHOLE PICTURE
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty in locating objects.
  • Can not sleep if to room is not completely dark.
  • Things have to be set up in a specific way.

Hearing under sensitivity behaviors of kids

  • Does not respond to name
  • Respect to the same phrase
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Performs better with background noise.

Hearing over sensitivity behaviors of kids

  • Sensitive to noises and voices
  • Difficult to focus on the speaker
  • Easily startled by sounds
  • Makes noise while working
  • Overwhelmed in crowds

As parents and family members, you can observe your child at home and school and inform me of the sensory issues in the comments section as I can clarify your problem precisely for you.

Problems with taste and smell

Taste under sensitive behaviors of kids

  • Prefers strong scents
  • Eats everything

Taste oversensitive behaviors of kids

  • prefers blend tastes
  • Avoid eating new foods
  • Eats a smaller variety of fruits and vegetables.                    
  • Sometimes chokes
  •  Frequently gags

Smell under sensitive behaviors of kids

  • Impaired Oder detection
  • Unable to determine when food has gone bad
  • Difficulty labeling scants

Smell over sensitive behaviors of kids

  • Higher food refusal due to scants
  • Nauseated or gags from certain foods
  • Decreased willingness to go to public places.

 Problems with touch and balance

Touch under sensitive behaviors of kids

  • Does not seem to feel pain or cold
  • Unaware of being a touch
  • Does not notice foods on the face
  • Can not find things in the bag or desk without looking
  • Prefers heavy tight clothes
  • prefers crunchy foods

Touch oversensitive behaviors of kids                        

  • Dislike textured foods
  • Bothered by clothing
  • Dislike light touch on face or back
  • ticklish
  • Hates being dirty

Balance under sensitive behavior of kids

  • Sways or rocks while sitting
  • Seeks fast rides
  • Does not seem to get dizzy
    • Puts head upside down

Balance oversensitive behaviors of kids.   

  • Frequently falls
  • Difficulty riding a bike
  • Sensitive to movement
  • Dislike riding on elevators
  • Struggles to go on uneven surfaces.

 Position issues of kids (proprioception)

Under sensitive behaviors of kids

  • This problem is unable to stay raw. They have issues with posture, walking, flexibility, and speed
  • Seeking out crashing/squishing
  • Messy eater
  • Knocks items even reaching to them
  • Difficult to go up and downstairs.
  • Bump into things frequently.
  • Position Over sensitive behaviors of kids
  • Avoid sports or physical activities
  • Prefers to be physically supported
  • keeps arms close to the body.

The ultimate solution for most of these problems

Sensory integration therapy or sensory enrichment therapy is the main treatment. It is very much effective for this. But close identification of sensory problems and proper assessment by a pediatrician o therapist is a must.

There may be associated with medical diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and such conditions should be closely considered when treating these types of issues in kids.

proper assessments should be applied to evaluate the existing level and after serial therapy programs, it should be reassessed to understand whether the treatment approaches are applicable or not.

Conclusion

Parents, family members, or caregivers should observe their loving kids and identify their behavioral patterns and get a simple but important idea of whether your child is having sensory issues.

If you identified that kind of issue you should get an estimation of whether your kid is having over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity.

It may be a basic sign of sensory processing disorder.

This simple and brief understanding will help you to direct your child to a professional body to address this as a medical issue.

He/she may be a pediatrician and an occupational therapist most of to time.

So get a clean, precise, and total understanding of your kids and direct them to an appropriate intervention.

That will be to shinning future of your loved ones and they need your support.

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