Sensory Processing Disorder is a neurological condition that affects the way the brain interprets information from the environment via the senses. When your system becomes overwhelmed, there is misinformation and misinterpretation that impacts your child's behaviors.
Having said that it is hard to identify when your child is behaving like a typical 2-year-old versus having a sensory meltdown. When your 2 year old refuses to eat, or your 5 year old refuses to wear a certain type of pants does not necessarily constitute a Sensory Processing issue. You have to ask yourself is there a pattern? Does my child hate all clothes with tags? Does my child hold their hands over their ears when it is noisy or was it a one-time isolated event that was justified such as watching fireworks for the 4th of July?
If your child experiences sensory concerns that impact their daily lives, that needs to be addressed.
Signs To Watch For
Extreme response or fear of high pitched, loud, or unexpected noises (toilet flushing)
Avoids hugs and cuddling with family
Fearful of playground equipment (cries when placed on a swing)
Clumsy and uncoordinated movements
Hear sounds that are distracting that others don’t seem to be bothered by
High pain tolerance
Will pet the family pet too hard (not maliciously they don’t understand what they are doing)
Impulsive and thrill-seeking
Cries when hair is washed or nails are being cut
Can’t tolerate haircuts
Frequently bangs into others
Plays too rough with peers
Gags or becomes upset when eating or touching textures (slimy or messy)
Once you have identified if your child has sensory concerns, keep a logbook. Notice what your child's reaction was to various situations. If you begin to notice a pattern such as a child became overwhelmingly upset when he was dirty or refused to play in the sand at the beach. The child will only wear clothing that is soft and the tags are cut out. The child only eats chicken nuggets from the same fast-food chain and won’t eat anything else. If these are consistent patterns you have observed you will want to bring them up to your pediatrician.
How To Help
When speaking with your child's Pediatrician discuss your concerns. Make sure to have specific items such as “my child is unable to keep up with their peers because they become upset when they are put in____(fill in the blank)________________situation.”
Make sure your doctor understands that your child requires assistance.
You can ask your doctor about a diagnosis that explains your child's behavior if they know any therapists that they recommend that can help address your concerns.
Your Pediatrician should refer you for an Occupational Therapy Evaluation to assist with your concerns. Children are able to receive services at home or daycare and school depending on your child's age and qualifications.
Children diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorders are able to develop skills that allow them to tolerate sensory input that once interrupted their daily functioning. These children are able to feel safe and secure in their environment which allows them to continue to grow and feel confident and more willing to try areas outside their comfort.