In observing any classroom, you will find that no two students behave in exactly the same way and that every child develops at a different pace. While scientists have established typical benchmarks for development, not every child hits every benchmark at the same time. Some child may also experience delays or a disorder in their development. One common disorder in young children is sensory processing disorder (SPD). If you are a parent or a teacher of young children, you may be familiar with sensory processing disorder and its symptoms.
What exactly is sensory processing disorder?
Sensory processing disorder affects the nervous system and the way that individuals receive and respond to sensory information. Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience sensory issues or sensory processing disorder. Similar to autism, the symptoms of SPD also fall on a spectrum. SPD may also be co-occurring with autism, as many children on the spectrum will experience sensory issues and sensitivity. As a result, individuals with SPD will all experience the disorder differently and will exhibit unique symptoms. For example, some children with SPD may be highly sensitive to sensory input (hypersensitivity), while other children with SPD have an atypically low reactivity to sensory information (hyposensitivity).
5 Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder
As mentioned, sensory processing disorder can look different in every individual, but there are several key indicators of the condition.
Clumsiness/coordination problems: There are many people who fall into the category of clumsy, but individuals with SPD are atypically uncoordinated.
Extreme food sensitivity: While some children are picky eaters and will refuse brussel sprouts or asparagus at the dinner table, children with SPD experience extreme aversions to food. This may be for different reasons, including issues with the smell, texture, temperature, or flavor of the foods. Children with SPD may gag when they try new food that triggers their sensory issues.
Visual sensitivity: Children with sensory processing disorder may be highly sensitive to different lighting (e.g. too much natural light coming in a window or bright fluorescent lighting).
Tactile sensitivity: Children with SPD may experience extreme responses to tactile stimuli, including their clothing. This may cause them to experience a sense of pain if they are wearing a texture that triggers their sensory issues.
Seek extreme sensory stimulation: Some children who are hyposensitive to sensory information may try to seek out stimulation for example, by running into walls. In these instances, children are not intentionally injuring themselves, but the behavior may be perceived this way.
Do you have additional questions about sensory processing disorder or pediatric occupational therapy in Chicago?
Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services for children, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.