Who likes to drive during rush hour? No one! What is life like for a person with sensory processing disorder (SPD)? An overwhelmed individual with SPD likened his life as having a “traffic jam” in his brain. If your child has sensory issues that often come hand-in-hand with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, ADD/ADHD, Tourette syndrome, etc. have your child evaluated by a professional. Often the child will be referred to an occupational therapist (OT) who will be able to help your child. What will an OT suggest to parents to help their child with sensory integration issues? Also what exactly is sensory processing disorder?
What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory processing disorder is a neurological disorder causing difficulties with taking in, processing, and responding to sensory information about the environment and from within one’s own body. Individuals can be hypersensitive or hyposensitive to varying degrees and may have trouble with one of the senses, a few, or all of them.
1. Sight (visual sense)
2. Hearing (auditory sense)
3. Smell (olfactory sense)
4. Taste (gustatory sense)
5. Touch: The skin senses
6. Motion (kinesthetic sense)
7. Balance (vestibular sense)
When your child is upset because of sensory overload this causes frustration, anxiety, stress or distress. Then matters worsen when he is placed in difficult situations or is surrounded by excessive noise and lots of activity. School is a stressful environment. Classrooms can be over stimulating with too much to process. Using Sensory Box items recommended by your OT will help your child cope when he is experiencing sensory overload. See our post Customize Your Child’s Sensory Box – What Items to Choose and Why?
Your OT may also draw up a “Sensory Diet” for your child. See our post “What Is a Sensory Diet”.
Sensory Tools and Toys
for a Sensory Diet or a Sensory Box
Google the words “sensory tools and toys” and you will find numerous companies selling products that fall in that category.
Here are some of the sensory tools on the market: Chewy Tubes, chewable jewelry like KidCompanions Chewelry and SentioCHEWS, other Oral Motor tools, Weighted Products, Pressure Vests, Swings & Sensory Furniture, Fidget Toys & Stress Balls, Tactile Toys & Products, Sound Toys, Wilbarger Therapressure Brush, Scent Swooshers, Massage Roller or Balls, etc.
The mouth is an organizing center – sucking items can be very soothing and self-regulating. The pacifier is the first sensory tool ALL children use very early in life. An oral seeking child can often regulate better when able to chew as it helps them focus on that one sense. Allow and encourage respectful chewing or biting on a discreet, age-appropriate oral-motor tool approved by teachers and OT’s.
Know how movement helps many children? Chewing and biting on safe, approved items like a chewable necklace does that also. The jaw muscles use pent up energy to help focus. KidCompanion Chewelry and SentioCHEWS are great for kids who need oral stimulation. These chew pendants help organize the brain and reduces stress!
What will the other students say about the Sensory Box items?
Sometimes other classmates must be explained why a child has to use these items and THEY may not have a “toy”. ALL must know sensory tools are NOT toys but needed tools. This can be tricky yet doable; I can hear the, “It’s not fair!” but it’s a great learning opportunity about life. If classmates (and their parents) are made aware that the items in the sensory box are needed like eye glasses or hearing aids it goes well. When discussing with the class about the necessity of the sensory tools, the teacher could read any of the following books to the class: Click on the title to read our review of the book.
- Sensitve Sam: With the help of his OT, Sam’s sensory adventure has a happy ending by Marla Roth-Fisch
- Picky, Picky Pete A Boy and His Sensory Challenges and It’s Haricut Time! written by mom and occupational therapist Michele Griffin
- I’m Not Weird, I Have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD): Alexandra’s Journey (2nd Edition) by Chynna Laird