Many individuals have difficulties with sensory processing and/or self-regulation. Unfortunately, this is not always recognized in the child or teen and the underlying needs are not addressed. As a result, individuals may be mislabeled as lazy, uncooperative, uninterested, or having a behavioral disorder. Children and teens often struggle socially, emotionally, and/or academically. Secondary difficulties such as low self-esteem, and anxiety may emerge. Addressing sensory processing difficulties and improving one's ability to self-regulate can greatly assist children and teens in becoming more successful in our demanding world.
Many of us are familiar with five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. There are other senses that are addressed when working with Maureen in occupational therapy that are critical in supporting one's social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Vestibular (head position and balance), proprioception (awareness of our muscles and joints) and interoception (awareness of our internal body states, i.e., hunger, thirst, pain, etc.) are all key factors in development and play a significant role in our daily lives. Sensory processing refers to the way our nervous system receives messages from our senses and turns them into responses that enable us to navigate in our environment and interact in our world. When sensory information is not processed correctly in the brain the responses may be inappropriate and can result in challenges in a variety of skills.
Symptoms or Behaviors Seen with Sensory Processing Difficulties
Difficulty with eating, sleeping Rarely plays with toys Struggles with changes or transitions Difficulty with attending, focusing, academics Doesn't notice pain or has a high tolerance to pain Difficulty following daily routines Overly sensitive to touch, noise, smells, etc. Tends to shut down or have tantrums Has difficulty reading Misinterprets questions, requests Is uncoordinated or clumsy Craves rough housing, climbing, jumping Has difficulty playing or interacting with others
Self-regulation is the ability to regulate one’s behavior at an age appropriate level. It is a foundational skill of childhood that allows children to grow into adults who can identify and manage thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Individuals of any age who have difficulty with self-regulation may display symptoms that include meltdowns or tantrums, anger or shutting down. There is mounting evidence that the ability to self-regulate has a positive impact on health, and academic and social skills.