Sensory processing patterns in children in school and home

Sensory processing disorder in children is becoming more recognized among health professionals and educators. These children are often misunderstood and may be incorrectly labeled as ADD, learning disabled, slow, clumsy or naughty. Identifying their areas of difficulty is a vital first step towards helping children achieves their potential.

Sensory Modulation Disorder at School

A Sensory Defensive Child

A sensory defensive child may be extremely fussy about the textures of school clothing and shoes, smells in the environment, the brightness of the lights and the noise (oh, the bells!!!). They may avoid playground activities for fear of being jostled or bumped, or because they dislike movement and heights.

Standing or sitting in close proximity to other children can be stressful owing to the possibility of unexpected touch and jostling. This child may also be easily distracted during seatwork owing to not being able to screen out noises and visual stimuli.

A sensory defensive child can easily become overstimulated or overwhelmed by the information coming from any or all of the senses and may “act out” in crying, tantrums, and meltdowns.

A Sensory Under-Responsive Child

A child who is sensory under-responsive may seem to “zone out” during periods of sitting still, maybe the last to respond to the teacher’s instructions, and may seem slow and lethargic during classroom activities.

A Sensory Seeking Child

Sensory seeking children may be constantly fidgeting and moving during class time, and often get into trouble for impulsive behavior which disrupts their classmates.

A sensory seeking child may struggle to do anything without excessive movement, and will be the child who crashes and bumps into furniture, sports equipment, and other children – this is done on purpose, not maliciously, but just because it “feels good”. This child may also chew on pencils and clothing and whatever else comes to hand!

Sensory-Based Motor Disorder at School

Children, whose brains are not processing sensory information adequately, may experience delays in motor skills. The brain may be sending incomplete or inaccurate messages to the body and may result in various delays. Balance and coordination skills may be poor, and this child may slump at the desk or on the floor owing to poor postural control. Gross motor skills and fine motor skills may be delayed compared to their peers. Children with a sensory-based motor disorder may take a long time to learn to use eating utensils, to cut with scissors and to dress themselves. They may be clumsy and struggle to play games and interact appropriately with other children.

Sensory Discrimination Disorder at School

Sensory Processing Disorder in children may manifest in poor sensory discrimination. This may lead to delays in

  • Auditory perception (understanding what they hear),
  • Visual perception (understanding what they see) and
  • Tactile perception (understanding with they can feel)

In the absence of a diagnosed hearing loss, auditory perception delays may result in (among other things) a child struggling to remember what was said, confusing similar-sounding words, and struggling to hear the teacher’s voice over the background noise in the classroom.

In the absence of a diagnosed loss of vision, visual perception delays may result in (among other things) a child struggling to copy words from the blackboard, losing his place when reading, confusing similar-looking words and letters (eg b, p, d) and battling to do jigsaw puzzles.

This child may also find it hard to do regular classroom worksheets such as mazes, word searches, and spot-the-differences. Poor tactile perception can cause a child to be clumsy with the use of his hands, perhaps breaking things owing to squeezing too hard or dropping things because of not holding them firmly enough.

Tactile perception is a sensory processing function

Tactile perception delays can make fine motor tasks such as fine craftwork and handwriting more difficult, and the child may not be able to identify an object by feel instead of by sight.

Occupational Therapy is recommended as the first step in the diagnosis and intervention of sensory processing disorder in children. Sensory Diet can help your child to learn to process sensory information more adequately in order to get a more functional response.

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