Sensory issues can be manifested when a child has a difficult time receiving or responding to information that is coming in through their senses. When children are experiencing sensory challenges it can cause them to avoid or seek things that trigger their senses: light, taste, touch, smell, sound, vestibular and proprioception. When experiencing sensory input, some children can be highly sensitive or over-responsive (hypersensitive) and others are not easily stimulated or under-responsive (hyposensitive).
When a child is hypersensitive (sensory avoider), some symptoms they may display are:
- Low pain threshold
- Appearing clumsy
- Fleeing without regard to safety
- Covering eyes or ears frequently
- Avoids sensory input
- Picky food preferences
- Restlessness and discomfort
- Avoids crowds
- Distracted by background noise
Does this sound like your child?
Download our free report: 5 Ways to Help your Sensory Avoider Engage
When a child is hyposensitive (sensory seeker) here are some behaviors they may display:
- A high pain threshold
- Bumping into walls or other objects
- Touching things
- Putting things in their mouth
- Giving bear hugs
- Crashing into other people or things
- Doesn’t understand personal space
- May be very fidgety and unable to sit still
- Enjoys movement-based play like spinning, jumping, etc.
- Seems to be a “thrill seeker”
Does this sound like your child?
Download our free report: 5 Tools to Help Calm your High Energy Sensory Seeker
OT is able to help children and families navigate or even in some situations, overcome, sensory challenges. OT treatments can make a significant difference in your child’s symptoms.
For more information on how OT may be able to help your child, please feel free to reach out to us by calling (919) 448-6018, contact us through our website or start a chat with us in the bottom right of the website.
Sensory Seeking Case Study
In this case study, learn how we were able to help a child with sensory challenges.
When many people think of sensory, they think of the 5 senses: touch, sight, hearing, taste, and smell. However, there are actually 8 senses. The five listed above and vestibular, proprioceptive and interoception.
- The vestibular sense is the sense of head movement in space. It allows the body to know where the head is positioned without relying on another sense, such as sight.
- The proprioceptive sense is sensations from muscles and joints to describe the position of the body, such as if an arm is raised or lowered. Interoception describes the internal feelings of the body, such as hunger or thirst.
- Interoception also plays a role in potty training.
Courtney (an All About Therapy OT) began working with Penelope when she was 25 months old.
Penelope did not have a diagnosis but was referred for sensory concerns. She had a history of severe torticollis and was treated for about 8 months by physical therapy. Penelope would often exhibit behaviors such as hand flapping and happy fingers. She also galloped in place when excited. Penelope frequently ran into things, such as couches and even other people.
Many clinicians were quick to assume autism. However, many of Penelope’s behaviors could be explained by a difference in sensory processing. In her case, Penelope was struggling with the vestibular sense.
Courtney worked to eliminate or replace unwanted behaviors by redirection. She also gave Mom education regarding providing Penelope with the sensations that she craved in an appropriate way.
A trampoline was the first suggestion. Penelope started jumping on the trampoline prior to all therapy sessions and Mom noticed a huge improvement in her attention to task. She also demonstrated less unwanted behaviors after jumping.
Courtney also suggested animal walks, such as bear crawl, frog jumps, and crab walk, putting Penelope’s head in different positions. In addition, she recommended a wiggle cushion for use at the dinner table (and later, when Penelope started attending school). The wiggle cushion allowed Penelope some movement while sitting, which reduced the need for her to get up and move around during dinner.
Allowing Penelope the opportunity to move around satisfied her vestibular sense and the need to move, which in turn, allowed her to remain focused on her tasks.
Working with sensory issues involves finding what works best for each individual child. One suggestion might work for one child, but not another.
Courtney continues to see Penelope for fine motor related challenges, but Penelope’s sensory issues have all but disappeared now that Mom and Penelope know how to manage them. Penelope can independently determine when she needs a sensory break and she knows how to appropriately address her sensory issues. Mom provided the following feedback after working with Courtney for about a year:
“Our experience with Courtney Hastings has been nothing short of amazing. Thanks to Courtney’s hard work and dedication we have watched our daughter overcome numerous sensory related challenges while reaching her goals time and time again. Courtney has replaced our fear and anxiety with confidence and hope by educating us about sensory related topics. Our daughter’s improvement is a direct result of the patience, kindness, knowledge and professionalism exhibited by Courtney week after week. We cannot thank Courtney enough for all she has done and continues to do for our family!”
If you believe your child has sensory challenges, it would be beneficial to seek out an evaluation from a skilled occupational therapist. Your therapist will be able to determine what sensory needs your child has and how to best address them.
Our pediatric occupational therapists travel to your child to provide services in their natural environment or perform services using teletherapy.
Get more tips, interact with our OT’s and connect with other parents by joining our Facebook Group Here.