Sensory Integration Processing Disorders refer to an unusual reaction to certain sounds, smells, sites, tastes, movements or physical contacts. It is a neurological problem that can simply be explained by “faulty wiring”. The incidence of sensory disorders in children is rising significantly in our culture in part due to better and earlier identification in children. However, some believe that the rise in incidence is more due to an increase in environmental toxins such as lead poisoning; and nutritional causes related to diets with high amounts of sugars, carbohydrates and preservatives, and low amounts of fish oils and Omega 3 vitamins. Sensory problems may occur alone, or in conjunction with another learning or developmental disorder. They are often a chief symptom in various forms of autism; however, the presence of sensory integration problems does not indicate a diagnosis of autism.

Below is a general checklist organized by the different senses in the body which will help you determine if your child demonstrates symptoms of a sensory processing disorder. You will notice that within each category opposite symptoms are possible such as fearing movement, or loving movement. This is because sensory problems can fall under 2 categories: under responsive (which leads to sensory seeking behaviors), or over responsive leading to the inability to regulate the reaction (which leads to avoidance, anxiety or fearful behaviors, as well as inappropriate behavior such as crying, or hyperactivity). Your child may be inconsistent and exhibit either form of behavior with different situations, different moods, or on different days.

Auditory (hearing):

  • Distracted by noise such as the radio
  • Holds hands over the ears upon hearing a loud sound (toilet flushing, vacuum)
  • Does not always respond when name is called or when given a verbal command, even though hearing acuity is fine

Visual (sight):

  • Is bothered by bright light (cries or complains in sun light)
  • Prefers the dark
  • Fascinated by flashing lights
  • Stares intensely at some moving objects such as a spinning wheel
  • Hard time finding objects in a cluttered room or space (e.g. a toy chest)

Touch (tactile):

  • Unusual need for touching certain surfaces or textures
  • Is bothered by certain sensations such as a clothing tags, seams on socks, snow pants
  • Decreased awareness to pain (may not cry when he falls down)
  • Distress during grooming (washing face, brushing teeth, or cutting hair)
  • May get too close to people and constantly touch others (loves being held), or resist close contact with people (doesn’t like hugs)

Taste (oral):

  • Constantly licking non food objects
  • Craves certain foods such as sweet, salty, or sour
  • Gags easily
  • Picky eater- avoids certain textures

Smell (olfactory):

  • Deliberately smells everything he touches
  • Either gets irritated by strong odors, or does not seem to smell odors
  • Fascinated by strong scents such as perfumes, hair sprays and air fresheners

Balance (vestibular):

  • Fear of feet leaving the ground
  • Dislikes any upside down movement
  • Holds rigid body posture during movement
  • Becomes disoriented after leaning over
  • Spins frequently throughout the day (loves chairs that spin)
  • Avoids playgrounds
  • Seeks all kinds of movement and particularly loves merry- go- rounds, and moving toys
  • Rocks unconsciously during sedentary activities

How Muscles Communicate With the Brain (proprioceptive):

  • Becomes overly excitable with movement activities
  • Frequently “on the go” (similar to ADHD, though inconsistent)
  • Takes significant risks during physical play
  • Overly cautious going up or down steps due to fear of falling. May cling onto walls when walking.
  • Turns whole body to look at you
  • Seems clumsy and accident prone
  • Poor fine motor coordination such as decreased writing mechanics due to weak pencil grasp

Miscellaneous Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms as a Result of Any of the Above Symptoms:

  • Stubborn, rigid, and/or uncooperative.
  • Fears interfere with daily routine
  • Sensitive, cries easily with frequent temper tantrums due to low frustration tolerance. (“high maintenance” kid)
  • Has trouble making friends
  • Disorganized.
  • Wastes time.
  • Moves slowly.
  • Low self-esteem, or lacks confidence in certain activities in which he experiences difficulty

Social Communication Symptoms as a Result of Sensory Problems:

  • Reduced eye contact
  • Overly shy with peers. Doesn’t seem to know how to join in.
  • Gets “lost in the shuffle” in a large group, often preferring to play alone
  • Appears serious, or dazed like he is in another world
  • Appears immature to others his age
  • Does better playing with older children or adults who will carry the weight of the interaction
  • Latent response. Often needs several repetitions of a question or instruction. Does better with gestural commands, or nonverbal cues to pay attention
  • Limited use of social greetings
  • Inconsistent attention to joint activities.
  • Prefers to do what he wants to do rather than what the group is doing
  • Inappropriate topic maintenance, or topic shifting (when you ask what he wants for lunch, he is insistent on showing you that he can count to 100)

These and many other symptoms can be assessed and possibly even helped through our services.

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