Sensory Processing is the ability to process information that is received through the senses. Children may over or under-react to sensory input.
Children with Hypersensitivity (over-responsive), will avoid sensory input. These children feel overwhelmed easily and will limit their interactions. These children can display meltdowns secondary to becoming overstimulated. If they smell something too strong, see a bright light or hear a loud unexpected sound, this is enough to cause an overwhelming response. As a result, a child will become so upset they will be unable to calm themselves down causing a meltdown. Other items that can cause a meltdown are large groups of people, the texture of their clothing (they complain it itches them), or the inability to cope when there is a change in their routine.
Children with Hyposensitivity (under-responsive) will seek out information. These children will have a high tolerance for pain, want to play rough, touch everything, are labeled “hyper” or fidgety, are easily distracted, and are considered clumsy. These children have a difficult time in school as sitting for learning is a daily requirement.
These children are both sensory avoiders and seekers. They may not want to touch various textures, but at the same time will run, jump and crash into objects. I always tell parents to take note of what activities cause them to be triggered. This way you can avoid or prepare them for that activity.
If your child is suffering from Sensory Processing Disorders, notify your Pediatrician. Get a referral for an Occupational Therapy Evaluation to properly assess the situation.
Sarah Appleman MS, OTR/L is the author of “Play With Your Food” and is a specialist in her field.