Think of your brain like a computer where information is entered. The computer (brain) processes the information and then yields output in the form of behavior or motor skills. This is the concept of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). The brain organizes sensory information to create an adaptive response. This processing directly impacts the development of motor control, behaviors and emotional responses. SPD occurs when there is a “glitch” in the system which disrupts daily routines.
When we think of senses, we all know the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, but the two lesser know senses need greater attention. The vestibular sense obtained through movement and the proprioceptive sense obtained through our joints are very important senses and are precursors to the development of our visual and auditory systems.
Clusters of Sensory Processing Disorder
There are three symptom clusters under SPD. Sensory Modulation Disorder may include over-responsivity, under-responsivity and sensory seeking. Sensory Based Motor Disorder includes dyspraxia and postural disorders. Sensory Discrimination Disorder affects vision, hearing, touch, taste, small, position and movement. Each category displays a specific set of symptoms & behaviors, which I would be willing to write to at another time.
My son has Sensory Modulation Disorder. Some things he is under-responsive to, like pain. Some things he is over-responsive to like noise. Most of the time he is sensory seeking, seeking input to meet his proprioceptive and vestibular needs. He also has mild hypotonia so he may fit loosely into Sensory Based Motor Disorder. He also has issues with auditory processing and may fit into Sensory Discrimination Disorder.
In the past we have seen several Occupational Therapists who claimed they worked with SPD, but issues were never adequately addressed. Now, we have a new OT and her complete focus is directed to SPD! Details here: http://www.ourjourneythruautism.com/2010/01/we-have-new-ot-with-focus-on-spd.html
We have been involved in activities that meet his sensory seeking needs. One of the most profound activities has been therapeutic horseback riding. Great info here: http://www.ourjourneythruautism.com/2008/10/eamon-coca.html We have been riding for about 18 months and it has been incredibly successful.
We had been involved in a tumbling program as well. We had stopped because the instructor had left the program but most recently found a great drop in program where he can jump on trampolines, swing on a rope into a giant foam block pit, tumble along an obstacle course, etc. and he leaves completely satisfied, all sensory needs met. This fall we added Karate to the mix which address some of his sensory needs and also works with self discipline and self control.
Tiffani Lawton, RN