Sensory Processing What?

We had a busy, busy summer being introduced into the world of childhood development experts.  For my family that had never been to anything more than an annual pediatrician appointment, with a side of naturopathy to tackle a food intolerance this was a whole new world.  We started down this path, when we were looking for some reasons for why our smart, happy boy continued to struggle with reading, despite lots and lots of school & home interventions.  We started with one small appointment — an “occupational therapy evaluation”…. our knowledge, our list of appointments and our monthly delivery with new books from Amazon grew from there.

As I write the post (my notes in parenthesis) are either the example that’s relevant to my kids, or the way I asked the dr/therapist explain it to me in plain and easy language.

Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration Disorder ~ we’ve come to learn that kids (and adults) can find just about any of the 5 senses a challenge.  Could be your sense of taste is under (eating wildly spicy food) or over developed (chicken and rice).  Or it could be your sense of touch is over developed (can’t stand labels on clothes, won’t stay under a scratchy blanket, that seems just fine to others in the family).  But it also extends into senses I don’t think a lot about such as:

  •  Proprioceptive Processing – having to do with our understanding of where we are in space.  There’s nothing like watching a occupational therapist ask your child to close their eyes and touch their nose… and learning that that’s an impossible task
  • Vestibular Processing – fancy way to say balance.  Some groups think of this as it’s own disorder all on its very own.

With sensory integration issues, there are a wide range of symptoms (depending on your child), and a millions different ways to address them.  We started our quest of knowledge on the disorder with:

I needed these foundational materials to being the process of understanding what sensory processing issues were all about.  For us it explained a lot of weird symptoms — lots of bruised shins, falling out chairs, running into other kids and being surprised they were knocked down.  There’s a great mom blogger over at Growing Up Gish; she describes it this way: “We were so relieved to finally have some answers, and the more we learned about SPD the more it all made sense.”   If you read her description of her family’s journey to the world of SPD, it’s completely different from our family’s.  But that’s the nature of the disorder, and words she expressed were exactly what ran through my mind: relief, finally, it all makes sense.

So our first occupational therapy appointment introduced me to a lot of new words (common you’re trying to tell me that you know what proprioceptive is?), and was a good starting point to figure out what’s going on with my son.  As thorough as the OT evaluation was, it didn’t cover everything.

One of the other ‘odd’ things we’ve run into at our house is the complete inability to catch a ball — tennis ball, baseball, basketball, you name it.  But it turns out that issue is for another day and another post:  the developmental optometrist.

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