An Introduction to Sensory Processing Disorders in Youth

Amisha Gandhi

16 May 2022

The body has five main senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. This list is not absolute, as many more distinct sensations fall under one of the five main senses. These provide vital information about the body’s position and posture, assisting us in living in the world around us.

People with Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD) can have problems processing information from their senses, whether it be some or all of their senses. If you start to see signs of SPD in your children, consult a practice.

Each child’s perceptions and reactions to sensory information are slightly different. To learn more, keep reading this intro to SPD in younger people.

Primary Sensory Problems

Children and teens diagnosed with SPD experience problems with their primary senses. The primary senses are the ones that are most developed during the first years of life, which were the ones mentioned above.

One can have problems with one or more of the primary senses. These problems can make it difficult for children to function in the world around them, with some feeling oversensitive or unresponsive to what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch.

Other Sensory Problems

Children who are diagnosed with SPD can also have problems with secondary and low-level senses. Although these are less developed senses, they are still quite vital for a person to develop and interact with others.

For example, proprioception or kinesthesia is the sense that allows one to gauge where one’s body is in space and allows one to control its movements. Problems with this sense can cause one to have difficulty with balance and coordination.

Categorization of Sensory Problems

There are three categories of sensory problems that a person with SPD may fall under hypersensitive, hyposensitive and sensory seeker. Someone hypersensitive will over-respond to sensory input and is uncomfortable with certain sensations.

Meanwhile, a person who is hyposensitive will under-respond to sensory input and is often unaware of their surroundings. A sensory seeker is more similar to someone hypersensitive, over-responding to sensory inputs with a need to seek out those stimuli to feel satisfied.

Early Intervention for Children

If you notice that your kid seems to have difficulty with sensory processing, it is important to consult a professional. A simple diagnosis and treatment plan can be done to help your child with sensory processing. Which type of primary or secondary sense is the major concern can also be identified.

Children who are diagnosed with SPD can often benefit from occupational therapies, building their sensory processing and self-regulation skills early on. The quicker you act, the better chance you have at preventing your child from such an experience.

Treatment for children varies and is unique to each child. Some children will benefit from using a sensory diet, which is a way of providing appropriate sensory input that may be lacking in the environment.

Conclusion

If you notice that your child is struggling or  having problems using their sensory processing, take them to a professional. An occupational therapy clinician can possibly identify a sensory processing disorder and develop a treatment plan for the child. 

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