A previous blog post provided a brief overview of sensory processing. As mentioned in that post, everyone has “sensitivities” to various sensory inputs; it is when these sensitivities become so severe that they interfere with a person’s ability to engage in day to day activities that they are deemed to be a sensory processing disorder.
This post will begin a discussion that will continue in future posts concerning the various types of Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD). SPD is divided into three subcategories: Sensory Modulation Disorder, Sensory Discrimination Disorder, and Sensory-Based Motor Disorder. The first subcategory, Sensory Modulation Disorder, is further divided into three additional categories- Sensory Over-Responsivity, Sensory Under-Responsivity, and Sensory Craving. Before providing additional information concerning these three categories, it should be mentioned again that an individual with Sensory Processing Disorder receives sensory input properly; a problem lies with how the brain interprets this sensory information.
The first disorder within Sensory Modulation Disorder is Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR). A child with SOR has a hypersensitivity to information coming from one or more of the seven senses. According to Carol Stock Kranowitz (2005), “The overresponsive child’s brain cannot inhibit sensations efficiently. He may be quite distractible because he is paying attention to all of the stimuli, even if the stimuli are not useful. Overaroused and unable to screen the irrelevant from the relevant, he seeks to defend himself from most sensations. He may respond as if they were irritating, annoying, and even threatening.” (p. 70)
When the child is in this state, his response might take one of two forms, fight or flight. The child who has the flight response will try to escape from the offensive sound, touch, smell, etc. As a result, this child might be labeled a “runner”. On the other hand, if the fight response kicks in, the child may hit, kick, or engage in some other type of aggressive behavior. In either case, the behavior is viewed as undesirable.
The support(s) provided to a child with SOR vary depending on which sense(s) are hypersensitive. For example, if the child is over-responsive to auditory input, consider minimizing verbal directions and use more visual supports. (Davis & Dubie) If a child is over-responsive to tactile input and refuses to touch an item, e.g., paint on his fingers; offer a modification, such as allowing him to use a paint brush rather than his fingers. The key point to remember is when a child with SOR acts as if something hurts or irritates him, believe the child and provide him with support.
Future blog posts will discuss characteristics of and supports for children who are Sensory Under-Responsive or Sensory Craving.
Davis, K. & Dubie, M. (n.d.) Sensory Integration: Tips to Consider. Retrieved from www.iidc.indiana.edu.
Kranowitz, Carol S. (2005) The Out-of-Sync Child- Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder. New York, New York: Penguin.