Sensory processing disorder is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. Formerly referred to as sensory integration dysfunction, it is not currently recognized a distinct medical diagnosis. Many people of all ages have varying tolerances to sensations. Some people might have a sensitive nose and dislike perfumes or lotions, while others enjoy those scents; or some people might enjoy running barefoot through sand, while others would prefer to wear shoes at the beach. The question many parents are concerned with is, “When does it become a problem?” Often times older children, adolescents, and even adults have developed appropriate coping strategies to combat internal feelings of discomfort. It is when these coping strategies are not apparent that sensory processing may have a negative effect on the child’s day-to-day life.
Sensory integration involves a process that includes perceiving, organizing, modulating, and interpreting the sensations that our body receives. A person with an appropriate functioning sensory system can thrive in his or her daily occupations (a fancy word for “activities”). These areas of occupations can be disrupted when a person’s sensory system is dysregulated and can lead to problems in his or her rest and sleep cycle, education, work, play, leisure, and social participation. Body systems can also be impacted by improper sensory regulation, including cognitive ability, neuromusculoskeletal and motor-related skills, all of which have an influence on his or her behavior in daily life.
Sensory processing disorders can look different based on the sensory system in question, as well as the individual’s age. The sensory systems we as occupational therapists look at include the visual, auditory, tactile, vestibular, proprioceptive, and oral sensory systems. If you notice your child having adverse reactions to specific textures during feeding and/or play, overly seeks or avoids certain types of play or movements (such as a swing set), or becomes withdrawn in crowds, your child might benefit from a trained therapist’s input. For more information and a free consultation in our Beverly Hills location, please call Innovative Speech and Language Pathology at (310) 933-1265 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.