Monday, April 18, 2011

Sensory Processing Disorder

Brendan was diagnosed in March 2009 at 25 months old. The reason it was looked into is because Brendan has difficulty with attention, sitting still, was still mouthing objects, high pain threshold, no perception of objects (would run into things/trip over things that he didn't know was there) and showed very strong seeking behaviours. It was first picked up on at Brendan's 12 months corrected paed appointment at which we were refereed on to the OT. The paediatrician also voiced the possibility of ADHD at which we have not looked back on since having the SPD diagnosis.

He is now 50 months old (4yrs 2m) and has been attending OT for 37 months (3yrs 1m), he has been attending Speech Therapy for about 40 months (3yrs 4m).

Brendan has difficulties with:
* Auditory Processing
* Vestibular Processing
* Touch Processing
* Multisensory Processing
* Modulation of Visual Input Affecting Emotional Responses and Activity Level
* Emotional/Social Responses
* Behavioural Outcomes of Sensory Processing
* Items Indicating Threshold for Response
* Registration
* Seeking
* Avoiding

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
To put it simply SPD is when the Central Nervous System, which receives all the sensory information, does not decipher it correctly.

Another description courtesy of a reader of my blog, Parenting Premmies:
"Sensory Processing Disorder is a neurological disorder that affects how the brain processes information from all seven senses, often causing the child to react inappropriately to their environment."

I've taken the following quote from Lil Aussie Prems - Sensory Processing.
Sensory processing involves the registration, organisation and modulation of different kinds of sensations entering the brain at the same time. It relies on the brain having an intact modulation system to attend to relevant information and inhibit (dampen down) other irrelevant information.

Most people are aware of the main five senses which give us information about what is happening in our environments. They are the senses of:
• Touch
• Taste
• Smell
• Hearing
• Sight
However, there are also two other senses that provide us with information about what our own bodies are doing. These are the senses of
• Movement (vestibular)
• Body position (proprioceptive)

When children have sensory processing difficulties (usually identified by an Occupational Therapist) it can affect things like their attention, fine motor skills, gross motor skills as well as how other children and adults perceive them.

How does sensory processing work???
Each of the sensations mentioned above have receptors within our bodies that register sensory input, for example, our receptors for touch are located within the skin, our receptors for movement are located in our inner ear and our receptors for body position are located in our muscles and joints. Once this sensory input is registered it then travels to the brain to be interpreted. There is never just one form of sensory input being registered, it is usually lots at once e.g. even when we are sitting still there are usually lights on, some sort of background noise and the texture of what we are sitting on etc. Hence the brain needs to sort out what input is appropriate and what is not at any point in time.

For example, if a child is sitting in class and they hear noise in the corridor, they initially attend to it by turning to see what it is, but after a while they will get use to it and are no longer distracted. However, for a child with sensory processing difficulties, if their modulation system is not working properly, the child may continue to attend to this noise even though there are more important things going on in class. This is why children with sensory processing difficulties find it particularly hard to work in a classroom situation as there are lots of sensory distractions.

Problems tend to be at either the registration phase or the modulation phase.

Children with sensory processing difficulties are usually one of 4 types
• Sensory sensitive
• Sensory avoiding
• Poor registration
• Sensory seeking

This type of child often receives too much information for their systems to cope with. The information is not being registered appropriately and hence is being given too much attention. This type of child comes across as:
• Fussy
• A complainer
• Distractible
• Cannot tolerate being too close to others and may push or bite them
• Cannot tolerate a normal amount of background noise

This child also receives too much sensory input to cope with but actively tries to avoid it. A child displaying these types of behaviours will actively try and avoid too much input by doing things like:
• Covering their ears
• Humming to themselves
• Choosing a quieter place to work

This type of child is not receiving enough sensory information (either through the receptors for touch, taste, sound, movement, body position, smell or sight). They need a lot more sensory input than other children in order to concentrate and feel alert. However, they are not the type of children to seek out this input, hence they come across as having/being:
• Poor attention
• Lacking in motivation
• Uninterested
• Withdrawn
• Overly tired
• Apathetic

This type of child is also not receiving enough sensory information (either through the receptors for touch, taste, sound, movement, body position, smell or sight). They also need a lot more input than other children to concentrate and remain alert but they do go about getting this input - hence the term SEEKERS. This type of child comes across as:
• Not being able to sit still in their chair at school
• Active
• Fidgety
• Excitable
• Standing close to or up against people
• Hums to self or talks to self during class time

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