September 23, 2020

How Occupational Therapy Can Help Children Understand Their Senses

Do you suspect your child’s aversion to light, sounds, or touch could be more than a toddler acting up? Has he or she already been diagnosed with sensory processing issues? If so, Occupational Therapy can help your child adapt and react to sensations. Here we will discuss what sensory processing issues are and how Occupational Therapy can support your child.

Defining sensory processing issues

Children learn through play. However, some children may have trouble receiving and processing information from their senses. They may exhibit aversions to sensory stimulation, such as brushing their hair, being exposed to bright lights, or reacting to noises. What may seem like a tantrum might just be your child’s way of expressing he or she is overstimulated.

Everyone reacts to sensations differently. When it impacts a child’s performance in their daily activities, then occupational therapy is warranted. Occupational Therapists complete a thorough assessment to see where a child may seek or be averse to sensory input within the environment. They also determine which sensory systems are likely to be contributing to or creating barriers for functional performance.

The occupational therapist will then complete an individualized sensory diet and home program to help a child process and respond to different sensory input. Occupational Therapy can help children to process sensory information and regulate themselves as well as help parents to better understand their child’s sensory needs.

There are actually eight different types of sensory processing issues:

  • Proprioception: Or kinesthesia. This is the body’s ability to sense its location, movements, and actions. It helps enhance motor control and posture. It gives information about how you’re occupying or moving in a space.
  • Vestibular: The vestibular system is part of the inner ear and brain, which processes information to help you maintain balance, coordination, and eye movement.
  • Interoception: This helps you understand what’s going on inside your body. It helps you sense when you’re hot or cold or hungry. It can also provide information about your emotions, whether you feel happy, sad, or angry.
  • Five senses: These include the typical senses, such as touch, hearing, taste, smell, and sight.

Signs that indicate trouble with sensory processing

Sensory processing issues often become more noticeable during the toddler or preschool years. Children at that age are prone to “act out,” so it’s important to recognize the difference between a normal toddler behavior and trouble with sensory processing.

Signs of sensory processing issues include:

  • Hyperactivity or sluggishness
  • Putting inedible things into their mouths
  • Resisting hugs or hugging too tightly
  • Unusually low or high pain threshold
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
  • Frequently covering their eyes or ears
  • Running away without regard for safety
  • Picky about food preferences or textures
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills (holding a pencil, fastening buttons, tying shoes)
  • Aversion to tight clothes/shoes or certain textures/materials
  • Aversion to having their face get wet or teeth/hair brushed
  • Crashing into walls or even people
  • Difficulty with seated activities

If you’re unsure if your child is having trouble with sensory processing, it’s always best to speak to your pediatrician for an evaluation.

Occupational Therapy

Our Occupational Therapists are equipped to help children who have trouble integrating sensory information. The goal is to train your child’s nervous system so he/she can respond and integrate sensory information so that it does not impact their participation in daily activities.

How we can help

Lumiere Children’s Therapy offers Occupational Therapy for children who have trouble with sensory processing. We focus on working toward a child’s individualized goals and needs. Our goal is to provide an individualized approach that supports children to become as independent as possible.

Along with sensory processing issues, we also help children with specialized diagnoses related to:

  • Prematurity
  • Developmental delays
  • Fine motor delay
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Motor incoordination
  • Down syndrome
  • Brachial plexus injury
  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Visual processing disorders
  • Learning delays
  • Handwriting difficulties

We also provide other comprehensive therapies so children with a wide range of physical, emotional, and developmental conditions can achieve traditional milestones.

Other services include:

  • Speech therapy
  • ABA (behavior) therapy
  • Developmental therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Social work
  • Augmentative alternative communication
  • Early intervention
  • Teletherapy
  • Infant massage

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians works to improve the lives of children and their families.

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