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Caitlin Gardiner, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapy Improves Quality Of Life For Those With Sensory Processing Disorder
Therandipity, LLC
. https://www.therandipity.com/

Occupational Therapy Improves Quality Of Life For Those With Sensory Processing Disorder

Does your child cover his/her ears or start crying when airplanes fly bywhen a leaf blower is usedwhen a blender turns on? Does your child put up a fight when you're dressing them in jeans, socks with seams, or shirts with tags? Will your child only eat crunchy foods, smooth foods, or gag at the sight of orange foods? Is your child constantly jumping up and down on your bed, crashing onto your couch, or spinning in your office chair? Do bright or flashing lights overwhelm your child? Does your child appear unaffected in extreme temperatures or pain?

The human body takes in information and processes it in a variety of ways including auditory, visual, tactile, oral, vestibular, and proprioceptive input. The way a persons' nervous system receives messages from these senses and then organizes them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses is called sensory processing or sensory integration. This is something many people are able to do without even thinking about it. But, when your body does not process these messages instinctively it is called Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD. More specifically, SPD is a condition in which our brains do not process information properly through all our senses. When you have SPD your body will be over-responsive or under-responsive to environmental stimuli.

It is common for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to have SPD as a secondary diagnosis. Those that are diagnosed with both disorders are often faced with additional challenges. Children who suffer from sensory processing disorder often have more difficulty starting and completing daily tasks, poor self-esteem, anxiety, completing age appropriate gross and fine motor skills, and suffer from additional behavioral challenges.

With appropriate sensory-based interventions children with ASD and SPD can learn strategies to help to bridge the gap between the messages received from their senses and their motor and behavioral responses. Occupational Therapists (OTs) use these sensory-based interventions in order to help bridge that gap. The goal of the OT is to promote appropriate responses to the sense or senses the child has difficulty with both in a meaningful and fun way. This can help to improve the child's behavior across all settings and with all age appropriate activities. Through a series of assessments and observations, OT's can develop an individualized intervention plan to support and enhance the child's sensory processing patterns.

Below is a list of a few examples of sensory-based interventions that children might take part in during an OT session

  • Vestibular and Proprioceptive input using various types of swings, therapy balls, rock walls, and barrels
  • Oral input whistles, and blowing bubbles and feathers
  • Tactile input shaving cream, paint and moon sand
  • Visual input tracking and techniques for writing and reading
  • Auditory input Integrative Listening System (iLs) which consists of four focus programs (sensory motor, concentration and attention, reading and auditory processing, and optimal performance)

A key factor in a child's treatment plan is collaboration between the OT, other therapists, parents/guardians, teachers, and good follow through with the client's treatment plan both at home and in school. This can result in improved sensory processing and progress in academic, adaptive, social, and motor skill areas. Strategies for SPD taught during OT can make once challenging daily behavior easy and therefore can improve overall quality of life.

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