“Children with Sensory Processing sensitivities experience the world differently-
Your child’s sensory system is still growing- sensory inputs of sound, touch, texture, smell, balance and body awareness are still developing.” Corinne Allan
Understanding what’s happening to our children with Sensory processing sensitivities is the first step to helping them to manage their day to day sensory challenges.
Our nervous system is constantly taking in sensory stimuli from both the external environment and internally from inside our bodies. Our nervous system continually evaluates risk as to whether that sensory input is safe or dangerous.
Many children with autism have ‘Highly Sensitive Neuroreceptors’ which means they over or under respond to touch, taste and sound, and can have heightened responses to situations they perceive as harmful.
In some situations sensory information can be only partially processed, where not all of the information has been transported through to the central nervous system; or conversely, neuroreceptors can send too much information to the brain, which creates an Sensory overload for the child.
Children with Sensory Processing sensitivities experience the world differently, your child’s sensory system is still growing and sensory inputs through sound, touch, texture, smell, balance and body awareness still need to be developed.
So what is Sensory Processing sensitivities?
Sensory integration is where the brain processes information from our senses (touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell, as well as balance) so that we can respond appropriately to our environment.
A child with efficient Sensory stimuli, automatically filters the important sensory information from the world, allowing them to better concentrate their mind and body in class.
For others with sensory processing difficulties, outside stimuli can be dulled, muting sights, sounds, and touch. These individuals crave extra stimulation to arouse themselves – like needing the jolt of a wake-up shower after a sleepless night.
These are the people who love to spin and swing upside down; their stimulation-seeking behaviour may be easily mistaken for ADHD hyperactivity and poor impulse control.
Most people with sensory processing difficulties display elements of both extremes, suffering from sensory overload at times and seeking stimulation at others.
Several symptoms are quite distinct:
Common triggers of SPD include:
• Hair brushing
• Tight clothes or coarse fabric
• Loud noises such as fireworks or thunder
• Bright lights like camera flashes, sunshine, or strobes
• Strong smells, including perfume or scented detergent
• Swimming in lakes or hot sand
• Sticky fingers
• Tags on clothes
Sensory processing and life's daily challenges
Inconsistent severity of symptoms can make sensory processing sensitivities difficult to diagnose. Left untreated, sensory processing sensitivities can lead sufferers to feel so overwhelmed that they isolate themselves to avoid overstimulation.
It can also lead to anxiety, social isolation, or trouble succeeding at school or work.
I feel it is possible and incredibly important to validate the difficulties that arise when we have a different sensory experience and learn to understand the underlying challenges children have so we can understand how they communicate their feelings and behaviour.
Sensory sensitivities and Sensory Calming Spaces
It's possible for children to self-regulate their emotions, and an effective method is to provide a Sensory calming space for children with Sensory Processing difficulties or for children that struggle to communicate their feelings.
Sensory calming spaces create a safe and loving environment for children where they can process their emotions, regroup and learn to communicate with us why they feel overwhelmed.
The goal is for children to learn to self-regulate their emotions and learn to control anger before the anger controls them.
Sensory Processing sensitivities and Therapeutic Solutions
Corinne Allen is a Therapist that founded Kapiti Neuro Therapy, specialising in assisting in helping manage children and Adults with Neurological and psychological conditions.
For online resources on the topic, visit her website https://neurotherapy.nz/, for a Sensory Sam discount code and access to modern effective and positive techniques and strategies, to help raise a happy and confident child.
Mother of three amazing & individual children