At their last check-up, you mentioned to the pediatrician that your child is having some difficulty focusing and paying attention at school. They seem clumsy and are constantly falling and bumping into their friends on the playground. At home, simple day to day activities such as taking a bath, arts and crafts play, and mealtimes are becoming more and more of a struggle. You are wondering if there may be some physiological explanation as to why your child seems to have such a hard time completing activities in the same way as their friends or siblings. Carefully, your pediatrician listens to your concerns and starts to talk about “Sensory Processing Disorder.”
Your mind starts racing. What does this mean for your child and their future? What can you do to help your child move past this label and be as successful and happy as you know they can be? Parents bring their children to occupational therapy each week with different levels of understanding and different questions about the neurological disorder that inhibits the efficient processing of sensory information. One resource that many have found extremely valuable and that I recommend is Sensory Integration & the Child- 25th Anniversary Edition by Jean Ayres.
In simple and easy to understand language Ayres outlines what a sensory processing disorder may look like in your child’s body and brain. A simple analogy comparing sensory processing to street traffic helps parents, professionals and children put a mental picture around a term that may otherwise seem vague or confusing. Once Ayres explains what a sensory processing disorder is, she details each of the 5 most widely known extrinsic sensory tracts (sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste). Ayres also details two other hidden and less commonly understood intrinsic tracts involving the proprioceptive and vestibular senses. Next, she delves into explanations as to how these tracts interrelate in order to allow a child to experience, integrate and react to their environment. The book is jam packed with valuable information as well as tips and tricks that parents can put to immediate use in understanding sensory processing disorders and in helping their child to overcome any sorts of sensory related challenges they may be facing.
The diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder may be scary and daunting at first. It is important for parents and children to remember that they are not alone. Difficulty processing sensory information is extremely common and affects each individual differently. Reading through Jean Ayres book Sensory Integration & the Child- 25th Anniversary Edition or consulting with an occupational therapist are great places to start to get more information.