Oversensitivity to sound or light. Crashing into people or things. Throwing
fits when you try to put clothes or shoes on. Does this sound like your
toddler? If so, your child may not just be difficult or simply throwing
temper tantrums. They may have sensory processing disorder (SPD).
What is Sensory Processing?
Sensory processing is something that most people take for granted every
day. We process our everyday environment through sight, hearing, smell
and taste. The fifth sense, touch, is broken into the categories of:
- Tactile—pressure, pain, vibration, and temperature
- Vestibular—change in head position and body movement
- Proprioception—awareness of where our body is in space
We use these senses to explore and engage with our environment. However,
children who have a sensory processing disorder (SPD) may struggle with
some, or all, of these senses. And this may affect their well-being.
For example a child with good sensory processing can switch from an active
less formal task, such as recess, to a more structured activity, such
as sitting quietly during reading time, with little to no difficulty.
A child with sensory processing difficulties may react in an inappropriate
manner, such as shutting down or being overly active, or what some people
refer to as “out of control.” Ultimately, this can impact
their emotional and social needs, as well as be a problem for learning.
Signs of Sensory Processing
Sensory World these are 10 common signs of children who may have a sensory processing disorder:
Extra Sensitive to Touch: some children may want to be held or touched all the time, or don’t
want to be touched at all.
Sensitivity to Sound: they may be able to hear the faintest of sounds that other people don’t
notice, or cover their ears for sounds that are common, such as traffic
or the clanking of silverware when eating.
Picky Eaters: some children will only eat foods that are familiar to them
Avoidance of Sensory Stimulation: they may also not be able to tolerate being barefoot on grass or certain clothing.
Uneasiness with Movement: some children may fear being turned upside down or dislike playground
equipment or amusement park rides
Hyperactivity: they have a hard time being still during the day or falling asleep at night
Fear of Crowds: some children are bothered by crowded areas—to the point of meltdown
Poor Fine or Gross Motor Skills: they may have a hard time with holding a pencil or spoon, or kicking a ball.
Excessive Risk Taking: some children may be overly aggressive when playing with others, or don’t
know their own strength. They may also not notice when they hurt themselves.
Trouble with Balance: they may be clumsy, accident prone or lose their balance more often—many
times causing them to be more sedentary than other children.
If your child exhibits some of these signs, sensory integration therapy
may be an option for you to try.
Sensory Integration Therapy
Certified Sensory Integration Therapy
Lauren Mullaney works with children to help them adapt to their sensory needs, and to
help them explore their environments with more success. In traditional
sensory integration therapy, an occupational therapist exposes a child
to sensory stimulation through repetitive activities.
“What I like to do is start with a physical activity, such as animal
walks, jumping jacks, or play; and then move them to the table where we
work on a puzzle, color, handwriting, or some kind of a school related
task,” she says. “This helps the child learn how to focus
on tasks—like they have to do in school, where they have to remain
seated for longer hours.”
As the sessions progress, the activities become more challenging—helping
your child's nervous system respond in a more “organized”
way to sensations and movement. The end goal is that the child is a successful
participant in their own environment, which can look like the child following
classroom rules, independently completing chores and self-care tasks at
home, or playing with friends.
Sensory integration therapy also offers strategies to parents and teachers
that can help develop routines that will benefit the child.
If you think your child may have a sensory processing disorder, contact
Campbell County Health
Rehabilitation Services, at 508 Stocktrail Avenue in Gillette, Wyoming. Call 307.688.8000 to make
an appointment, or visit
www.cchwyo.org/rehab to learn more.