At Outside The Lines, our therapists use sensory integration interventions, cognitive behavioral interventions, and self-awarness techniques to help children understand and correctly process environmental sensory information. Unlike other clinics, we pride ourselves on not making sensory integration therapy a life long, weekly, intervention. On average we treat children with sensory processing disorder for 8 weeks. During this time we evaluate and educate the children and most importantly their families. Parents and caregivers are empowered to use strategies and interventions across all environments. Seeing successes in the clinic is not good enough for us, we work to ensure that parents are able to independently reproduce these successes for their children across all environments. After all, the point of good therapy is to help children complete activities of daily living in their daily lives!
Sensory Processing Dysfunction Definitions and Explanations
Sensory Processing Disorder: Sensory Processing Disorder is a difficulty taking in and interpreting sensory information so that an appropriate response can be generated. Sensory Processing requires a complex set of brain functions, including detecting, modulating, integrating, and accurately interpreting information received through the sensory systems. Processing sensory input enables meaningful responses to be made in the motor, language, cognitive, behavioral and other related domains. Because it is involved in these domains, sensory processing dysfunction can frequently be misdiagnosed as ADHD, ADD, OCD, ODD, or anxiety.
Sensory Modulation Disorder: Sensory modulation refers to the ability to adjust, regulate, limit, or enhance incoming sensory input. In a typically developing nervous system, the process of modulation occurs automatically creating appropriate states of arousal required for attention, social relations, memory, learning, and other key aspects of development. There are three subcategories of sensory modulation disorder, overresponsivity (hypersensitive), underresponsivity (hyposensitive), and sensory seeking/craving.
Overresponsivity: Responding too soon, fast, or demonstrating the fight or flight response to typical sensory inputs (hypersensitive/low thresholds). Looks like a child who will- hold hands over ears to protect self from common noises, fears movies or music concerts, becomes irritable with certain clothing textures, reacts negatively to textures on their hands such as clay or paint, likes to wear hats or hoods to block out visual input, is distracted or bothered by wall decorations, overresponsive to odors or tastes, avoids climbing or jumping, fearful going up/down stairs, appears overly sensitive to body pain.
Underresponsivity: Responding only after extensive stimulation is provided (hyposensitive/high thresholds). Looks like a child who- enjoys loud sounds from environment or from self, has difficulty following directions, may be nonresponsive when having his name called, may complain about having tired eyes, often loses place while reading and copying information from board, may seem oblivious to details or objects in environment, does not notice new odors, prefers sedentary activities such as watching TV, can have poor muscle tone and slow motor responses, is not bothered by injuries, cuts or bruises, does not notice when bumped or pushed, has poor body awareness or body scheme, uses too much or not enough force to meet everyday demands.
Sensory Craving: Sensory cravers need more and more “sensory fuel” to function, because no matter how much stimulation he or she receives, it is always “leaking out.” Children with sensory craving seem to need to touch, smell, and move, oblivious to traditional boundaries and cultural norms. They often move from object to object, or task to task in a wild, disorganized manner. The more sensation these children receive, the stronger the seeking becomes, and the less organizes one becomes.
Sensory Discrimination Disorder: Children with Sensory Discrimination Disorder have difficulty differentiating between similar stimuli and deriving meaning from both internal and external sensory input in at least one or more sensory system. For example: “cap” may sound the same as “cat” or a nickel may look and feel like a dime. Pushing soft may feel the same as pushing hard. It is common for a child to have excellent discrimination in one sensory domain and have difficulties with discrimination in other sensory domains. Sensory discrimination differs from over/underresponsivity in that “it is a breakdown in the high-level executive function task of processing and interpreting sensory stimuli; this is a high-level task of not only comparing and contrasting stimuli but also interpreting or deriving meaning out of basic sensory stimuli that are detected” (Bialer and Miller, 2011).
Sensory-based Motor Disorder- Postural Disorder: Children with postural disorders have a lack of core strength and endurance for motor activities. They struggle executing movement due to weak muscles and poor awareness of body sensations- particularly in the tactile and proprioceptive domains.
Sensory-based Motor Disorder- Dyspraxia: Children with dyspraxia do not have weak muscles, but instead have trouble coming up with ideas for motor actions, planning and sequencing the movements needed for an action and/or executing precise movement patters.
Information pulled from common occupational therapy understanding and knowledge of Sensory Processing Disorder and from research compiled by Doreit S. Bialer and Lucy Jane Miller, 2011.
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