What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
The Autism Awareness Centre defines Sensory Processing Disorder like this…
SPD (formerly called Sensory Integration Disorder) is a condition where the brain and nervous system have trouble processing or integrating stimulus.
SPD is a neurophysiological condition in which sensory input – either from the environment or from one’s body – is poorly detected, or interpreted and (or) to which atypical responses are observed.
What does Sensory Processing Disorder look like in children?
For a child with SPD, processing the feelings of hot or cold, tired, hungry, lights and sound can be challenging and overwhelming.Autism Awareness Centre
SPD can even evoke irregular responses that can cause health issues like not registering temperature in a typical way that allows the individual to dress appropriately for health and safety’s sake. Like with autism, SPD exists on a spectrum and can affect only one sense like hearing, or taste, or all of them. As a parent, the real challenges of SPD are figuring out if your child is hurt, cold, hungry etc…and then helping them get to the point where they can regulate themselves.
Those with SPD can be either under or over responsive to stimuli, intolerant to sounds, textures or clothing. Food can cause extreme responses, motor skills can be affected and changes can be difficult.
The Star Institute provides a really useful checklist symptoms should you think SPD may be a factor in your child’s health.
What can we do to help?
Hopefully, the Easter Holidays will be sunny, warm and lovely and you can spend lots of time outside. But this is Britain so we won’t hold our breath!
Here are 10 simple, inexpensive activities that you can enjoy on a rainy day that will help to integrate the senses:
Sensory processing activities
Play Doh, slime, funny foam, baking. These days there are loads of recipes on line for slime and play doh. Children need to touch a variety of different textures and to investigate how they behave and move to develop tactile processing. If your child does not like messy play, it is even more important that you find ways to introduce this. Baking can be useful for this as there is an end product and a reason for the messy stage!
Sand and water play also helps young people to experience tactile input. Hiding small toys in sand can help to encourage children to investigate. Putting food colouring in the bath and watch the colours change.
Therapy/gym balls. Children need to move and providing a ball can be a great way to let them move without disturbing the house. Our son watches tv sitting on his gym ball. He moves it around constantly. We also bounce it, roll it and he lies upside down over it. Gym balls can be a great way to regulate young people. If they lie on the floor, rolling the ball over them can be very soothing.
Create an obstacle course that involves crawling, jumping, blancing and moving over different textures.
Make a den – a tented area under a table or between furniture with pillows, blankets and lights inside for a place to chill and read or listen to music.
Sensory processing games
Playing games such as blow football, bubble blowing or art activities using Blopens are great for satisfying oral input needs. Making music with recorders, whistles and kazoos is also good.
Guess the food – blindfold food tasting or making food into faces or animals can be fun for some children. Especially with sour sweets, smooth chocolate, extra chewy food or crunchy biscuits! Try to describe the textures.
Water games – something as simple as a sink or bath of water, perhaps with bubbles, and a selection of containers can keep a sensory child happy for ages.
An aromatherapy massage can relax or stimulate depending on the oil and movements used.
Some children need ‘heavy work’. For these young people, pushing the hoover, moving chairs, carrying the laundry or putting shopping away can be heaven. And, let’s face it, any help around the house is always useful!
And don’t forget yourself!
Whilst your young person is happily entertained, don’t forget to take a few minutes to recharge your batteries as well.