Does your child seem to get easily overwhelmed in noisy or crowded places? Have you noticed them covering their ears in response to sounds that don’t seem too loud to you? These behaviors could be a sign that your child is struggling with sensory processing disorder. Learn more about this condition, how it can impact your child, and how our occupational therapists can empower them to overcome sensory processing difficulties.

What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition that affects how the nervous system interprets and responds to sensory information. This includes the common senses we all know: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. But it also includes more specific senses that help your child balance, coordinate their body’s movement, know when they are too hot or too cold, and more.

Children with SPD are either too sensitive to the information in their environment (hypersensitive), or not sensitive enough to recognize it (hyposensitive). In both cases, this can cause challenges in your child’s ability to handle daily activities like going to school or taking care of their body’s needs. 

Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder in Hypersensitive Children

The most common signs of SPD for children who are overly sensitive include:

  • Intense emotional responses to their environment
  • Low pain tolerance
  • Refusing or resisting hugs
  • Struggles with gross motor skills, like balance or coordination
  • Strong reactions to certain sounds, smells, textures, etc.
  • Easily startled by loud noises or sudden movements
  • Discomfort or distress with light touch, such as clothing tags
  • Picky eating habits
  • Difficulty adapting to new environments or activities
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Struggles with fine motor skills, like handwriting

Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder in Hyposensitive Children

The most common signs of SPD for children who are under sensitive include include:

  • High pain tolerance
  • Lack of awareness of being dirty
  • Often breaks objects or hurts others while playing (on accident)
  • Constant movement or fidgeting to self-stimulate
  • Often doesn’t notice loud sounds, bright lights, etc.
  • Difficulty recognizing personal space boundaries
  • Trouble understanding emotional cues from others
  • Poor fine and gross motor coordination.
  • Difficulty self-regulating emotions and behaviors

The Wilbarger Protocol for Sensory Processing

One of the techniques we utilize is the Wilbarger Protocol. This approach involves pressure and brushing techniques to help children get used to sensory input and improve their ability to regulate their responses to it.

Hippotherapy for Sensory Processing

Another treatment we offer is hippotherapy. This innovative approach involves working with horses to assist in your child’s therapy, which is an exciting activity that motivates them to push past their sensory challenges because they want to ride or brush the horses.

Free Developmental Screening

If you’re concerned about your child’s development, you can take advantage of our free online developmental screening. This tool is a convenient way for parents to know with certainty if your child is achieving their developmental milestones or if they need extra support to achieve their brightest future.

Take our free developmental screening

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