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Things to Understand About Sensory Processing Sensitivity and Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Sensitivity and Sensory Processing Disorder are neurological disorders which encompass a wide array of symptoms. Children with Sensory Processing challenges may experience intense physical responses to simple experiences such as rain on their face or having their nails trimmed. Hypersensitive and hypo sensitive responses are possible, depending on the child's condition. This inability to tolerate or register sensory input may lead to learning challenges, isolation, and, in the case of children who cannot register strong physical compression or strong smells that may indicate toxic substances, danger.

Children with hypersensitive touch responses may be unable to tolerate:
1) having their hands dirty
2) clothing against their skin
3) the texture of certain towels or blankets, and 
4) dental care.

Hyposensitive sufferers seek out 
1) touch, including the feeling of being squished
2) rough play, so much so that they may harm other children or animals
3) vibrational experiences, such as the washer on spin cycle or very loud television
4) extremely flavorful food, or food served at extreme temperatures.

Auditory hypersensitivity behavioral displays may include
1) sensitivity to objects such as fluorescent lights humming, the whine of a television set, or the fan of a refrigerator
2) cries when startled by loud or unexpected noises
3) discomfort in movie theaters, music concerts and other sound intensive events.

Children who under-register sounds when no hearing problem has been diagnosed may
1) love loud music and turn the television to extreme volumes
2) struggle to remember instructions or stories
3) not recognize when being spoken to
4) talk themselves through an event or a task.

Hypersensitive response to visual input include
1) inability to tolerate light
2) difficulty in focusing on a task for a long period of time
3) struggles in brightly painted areas
4) avoiding eye contact.

Under-responsive reactions to visual input include
1) letter and word reversals. For example, "b" for "d" and "was" for "saw"
2) struggles with copying or tracing
3) inability to distinguish between shapes and colors
4) confusion over left and right.

Developmental milestones may be more challenging for children with sensory challenges, including
1) poor fine motor skills. Clothing fastenings, scissors and crayons are a challenge.
2) poor tactile perception. Reaching into a backpack, they may be able to grasp an object, but they have to see it to identify it.
3) constant mouthing of objects long past infancy.

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder struggle to find their sense of balance and may have poor muscle control. Because their understanding of where their body is in space is not trustworthy, these children
1) cling to those they trust, and fear falling.
2) may walk on their toes
3) might stomp their feet or walk very slowly
4) bump into objects even after seeing them.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity and Disorder impact all of the senses. Hyper- or hypo-sensitivity to touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell may result in an uncomfortable and dangerous world as they puzzle out what items cause discomfort and what may actually cause harm.

While all children may experience phases of behaviors that may cause concern for caregivers, extreme responses to light, touch, smell and sound may be socially destructive and isolating. Conversely, the need for rough physical contact may be dangerous for the sensory challenged child and the children around them. Early diagnosis and locating the right resources is critical to the development of the child.

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