Too Much or Not Enough? Identifying Sensory Processing Difficulties
Sensory processing difficulties, sometimes referred to as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), can cause individuals to have trouble with organizing and responding to information. A person can be either over-sensitive or under-sensitive to certain sensory sensations and sometimes both.
Over-sensitivity, or hypersensitivity, can turn common encounters into intolerable obstacles. For example, loud noises, certain textures or tastes of food, a strong-smelling candle, scratchy clothing, and bright lights can be overwhelming and stressful. This leads to sensory avoidance, where kids steer clear or those overpowering stimulants. The opposite occurs in under-sensitivity (hyposensitivity), which creates a lack of seeing, hearing and feeling. This causes a child to seek out more sensory stimulation with more physical contact and pressure. They may also have an unusually high tolerance for pain and not realize they’re hurting someone when playing rough.
Many people experience a mix of the two, avoiding certain sensations while pursuing others. It has a big impact on everyday life. What makes this condition even trickier is that a child’s reactions to certain stimuli can completely change depending on the situation or environment. Sensory processing difficulties frequently aren’t recognized as a learning disability,despite having a large impact on the learning process.
What to Look For
There are two things to identify with SPD: the sensory input that’s affecting your child and how it is affecting them (over- or under-sensitive). With sensory avoiding, a child may react to a whole host of triggers, including loud noises, crowds, food smells or textures, and uncomfortable clothing. They may also get upset about changes in routine and may avoid trying new things. The reaction to these triggers is sometimes extreme and can lead to a sensory meltdown (a fight, flight or freeze response to sensory overload), which is different from a deliberate tantrum because it is out of the child’s control.
Meanwhile, a sensory seeking child craves input and often has a need for movement or physical contact. You’ll seem them squirming, entering other people’s personal space and flitting from one activity to the next. If that’s starting to sound like ADHD to you, you’re not off track.
Unsurprisingly, sensory processing issues often occur in conjunction with ADHD and autism. However, one is not necessarily dependent on the other. A child does not need to have ADHD or autism to have trouble coping with sensory processing. That’s why it’s important to have their triggers evaluated to reveal the true cause of the behavior.
Observing and Treating
At Creative Health Solutions, we begin by listening. That’s with a free telephone consultation with one of our co-founders—Richard or Judy—or sometimes both. This consultation will help you understand our services and our perspectives on treatment, and if we are a good fit for your needs. The next step is the initial one hour in-clinic consultation followed by a thorough and comprehensive assessment to uncover the causes of the issues.