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Sensory Processing

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Summary

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Sensory processing is how our body takes in information from the world around us through our senses (like seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling) and how we respond to that information. Sometimes, kids with special needs may have trouble processing sensory information, making it hard for them to focus in class, be comfortable with certain textures or sounds, or regulate their emotions. This is called sensory processing disorder, but with support and therapy, they can learn to manage and cope with their sensory challenges.

Frequently Asked Question

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Can sensory processing challenges be treated?

Yes, occupational therapy and other interventions can help children with sensory processing challenges learn to manage their symptoms and improve their daily functioning.

Can adults have sensory processing challenges?

Yes, sensory processing challenges can affect people of all ages. Some adults may have lived with sensory processing challenges since childhood, while others may develop sensory processing challenges later in life.

How can parents support a child with sensory processing challenges?

Parents can support their child by learning about their child’s specific sensory needs and triggers, creating a sensory-friendly environment at home, and seeking appropriate professional support such as occupational therapy.

Scientific Definition

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Sensory processing is how the nervous system receives, interprets, and responds to sensory information from the environment. The sensory system includes the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) and the proprioceptive and vestibular systems that provide information about body position and movement. Sensory processing involves complex neural pathways integrating sensory information with motor planning and emotional regulation. When sensory processing is disrupted, it can lead to sensory processing disorder, which can manifest in various ways, including hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to sensory stimuli, difficulty with sensory modulation, and impaired motor coordination.

Real World Example of Sensory Processing

Meet Susie, a curious and imaginative child who loves exploring the world around her. One day, Susie’s mom took her to a bustling amusement park. As they walked through the park, Susie’s senses came alive, experiencing various sights, sounds, and sensations. Here’s how sensory processing unfolded for Susie:

  • Sight: Susie’s eyes widened as she saw colorful carousel horses spinning in circles and children laughing on a Ferris wheel.
  • Hearing: The joyful music and excited screams filled Susie’s ears, making her giggle with delight.
  • Touch: Susie’s hands eagerly touched the bumpy texture of a roller coaster seat and the smoothness of a cotton candy stick.
  • Taste: She savored the sweet and fluffy cotton candy, its sugary taste tingling her taste buds.
  • Smell: The scent of popcorn and freshly baked pretzels wafted through the air, making her mouth water.

Susie’s brain processed all these sensory inputs, allowing her to enjoy the amusement park experience. Understanding how sensory processing works helps parents like Susie’s mom create supportive environments and provide tools like Goally to assist children in navigating sensory challenges.

How Does Sensory Processing Work?

Sensory processing involves receiving sensory input from our environment, which our brain then processes to generate a response. It relies on various brain regions and integrates information from different senses. Here are some examples of sensory processing in action:

  1. Hearing: A child covers their ears in response to a loud noise.
  2. Touch: A child explores the texture of food to determine if they like it.
  3. Sight: A child squints in response to a bright light.

When sensory processing is disrupted, it can lead to symptoms that affect a child’s daily life. These symptoms may include:

  1. Sensitivity: Overreacting or underreacting to sensory input like textures or sounds.
  2. Self-regulation: Difficulty managing emotions when overwhelmed or overstimulated.
  3. Attention: Trouble focusing or being easily distracted.
  4. Motor coordination: Challenges with balance and coordination.
  5. Social interaction: Discomfort with physical touch or personal space.

Understanding these aspects can help parents identify their child’s sensory needs and seek appropriate strategies and support. Goally, our tablet, helps kids with sensory processing through fun apps like digital schedules, AAC, and gamified learning. It also teaches emotional regulation, executive functioning skills, and social skills through videos.

 

This post was originally published on April 13, 2023. It was updated on July 20, 2023.