Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition that may affect children who have neurobehavioral disorders, like ADHD and Asperger's (now a part of ASD), and those with learning and processing challenges. When children consistently overreact or under-react to sensory stimulation they may have SPD. There are several exercises that can help children reduce SPD symptoms.
What is SPD?
Sensory processing occurs when the nervous system receives messages from the senses and reacts to those messages. Although a child with SPD receives the messages, the messages may become jumbled, causing an overreaction or no reaction at all.
Signs of SPD may include uncoordinated movements, pain when certain noises are heard, extreme sensitivity to touch or the inability to interact with others. It's important to realize symptoms may be inconsistent and occur at different times or not at all.
The senses that are affected by SPD include: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, balance and spatial orientation, muscle or joint movement and internal sensations like hunger or thirst.
Sensory Integration Exercises
Sensory integration exercises help children with SPD interact more successfully with their environments. The main criteria are that the activities are fun for the child and are introduced gradually.
- Lava lamps help kids adjust to intermittent light. Dimmer switches let parents dim or brighten lights in a room.
- Different colors can be introduced through new toys and clothes.
- Headphones help children block out noise or become immersed in calming sounds, which can help combat an auditory processing disorder. Natural sounds, such as the wind, thunder, rain, bird songs and waves, can be played through the headphones or experienced in real life.
- Free play with mud, play dough, sand, water or bubbles help improve tactile processing. Kneading bread dough is a fun and challenging activity.
- Aromatherapy for olfactory sensitivity is often successful. Older children can be given a small bottle of essential oil, such as peppermint, to mask scents that are unpleasant to them.
- Taste games with fruit or other foods are enjoyable because children often like to guess the flavor of the foods. Encouraging children to prepare food is a way to introduce new flavors and textures. Playing games with food on a plate may encourage sampling.
- Children with proprioception challenges may benefit from heavy work activities, which include lifting heavy weights such as full grocery bags; moving and stacking books or chairs; pushing grocery trolleys; or digging and raking in the garden.
- Jumping and balancing reduce vestibular disorder. Indoor or outdoor trampolines, swings, ride-on or rocking toys and seesaws are all helpful.
- The Wilbarger Brushing Protocol also known as DPPT is a very specific technique used for tactile defensiveness and sometimes other sensory processing challenges.
Parents can boost emotional, intellectual and social development of youngsters and help them improve self-esteem by assisting them with sensory integration exercises. Exercises for integration issues are complex, and it's best to seek expert advice before beginning them.
If your child struggles with processing sensory input or is already considered to have a processing disorder, contact us online or find a center near you to learn more about how the Brain Balance Program can help.