Sensory disorder. It’s seems like a new thing right? Twenty years ago we never heard much about it. While it’s always been there, sensory processing disorder isn’t new. Sensory Integration disorder was first defined by Occupational Therapist Anna Jean Ayres in 1972. Unfortunately, at this time the medical literature does not recognize as a medical or psychological concern.
Sensory Processing Disorder also known as Sensory Integration Disorder is broken down into three categories: Sensory Modulation, Sensory Based Motor Disorder, and Sensory Discrimination Disorder. Sensory Integration Disorder means that the brain does not have the ability to respond to the stimuli of the environmental in an accurate way. It can manifest by over responding to stimuli, under responding to stimuli or crave stimuli.
The first group of Categories under the Sensory Processing umbrella is Sensory Modulation. Sensory modulation has three subcategories. These sub categories include over responding, under responding, and craving responses. By over responding to stimuli people can startle easy, be picky eaters, have issues with clothing, personal care issues, moodiness, frustrated easily, meltdowns are out of proportion, can be overwhelmed by noisy or busy situation. They have a strong fight or flight response and will avoid uncomfortable situations.
My own son “E” meets the over response. He startles easy. He has ever since he was a baby. Loud noises scare him. He is an exceptionally picky eater. He refuses to eat fruits or veggies based on texture or how they feel in his mouth. His list of foods he will eat gets smaller each year. It’s frustrating for me. He will only wear cotton t-shirts and silky basketball pants. In a pinch I can get him to wear sweats. Regular clothing with tags or jeans with pockets feel awful to him. He prefers to wear hoodies and fleece to regular winter wear. So often he is cold. For his bedding he has to sleep on a velour blanket instead of the cotton sheets. Then he prefers fuzzy pillows and a large comforter. He did not like a weighted blanket at all. Tactile is everything. Personal care is an issues as he does not like to comb his hair as it is painful for him. He has recently become frustrated as well, and is showing signs of anxiety and depression. He is trying to avoid numerous of situations to keep himself calm. It creates huge issues for all of us. The stress is unavoidable.
For those who suffer from under responsive reaction to stimuli it can manifest itself as quiet and passive. They lack the ability to detect and respond to correct stimuli. Symptoms include unfocused, overweight, craves spicy or salty foods, a high pain tolerance, low muscle tone, poor fine motor skills and clumsy.
Now my son has a few of these traits. He is unfocused. However, I think this has more to do with his ADHD. He also has poor muscle tone, poor fine motor skills and is clumsy. That being said. I do not believe he is under responsive based on his reactions over the years.
The final sub-category is sensory seeking. Those who are sensory seeking display an strong desire for sensory input. They will crave sweets, crash into things like walls for the sensation, run, skip or jump everywhere, cannot sit still, has to touch everything and cannot identify where their space ends and yours begins. Often their reactions are at opposite ends of the spectrum from what is considered normal.
For my own child he loves sweats! I think this is normal for every kid and I don’t see an over the top response. He does like to crash into walls and run, jump and skip everywhere. When I ask him why, he says he needs to get his energy out. Can a child have more than one subcategory? I am not an Occupational Therapist or expert but I don’t see why not.
Sounds like a lot of other disorders doesn’t it? Sensory Processing Disorder can coexist and/or mask many other types of issues such as ADHD, Anxiety, and more. Each sensory system can have a disorder in it. The systems are: visual, auditory, tactile, smell, taste,vestibular, proprioception, and interoception. Vestibular means relating to or affecting the perception of body position and movement. Proprioception means the reception of stimuli produced within an organism. Interoception means relating to or being stimuli arising within the body and especially in the viscera (internal organs).
Each sub-type has different symptoms, and severity based on the individual. Therefore individual assessment is needed. Treatment is also individually based depending on symptoms and severity.
In the next post we will look at Sensory Based Motor Disorder.
Please note: I am not a professional. I am just a mom. I am not a substitute for a medical professional. If you have any questions or concerns about your own health or that of someone you love, please see a medical professional. This information is for entertainment uses only and not a substitution for a doctor.
Sources: Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Star Institute www.spdstar.org, www.sensationalbrain.com, and WebMD.