What is Sensory Processing?

Sensory processing and integration is all about how the body neurologically deals with the messages its bombarded from the world around us.

There are seven senses that sends information to the brain. When it gets there, the body processes the information and sends back its response.

The seven senses that make up our sensory processing are:

Hearing – Auditory
Sight – Visual
Taste – Gustatory
Smell – Olfcatory
Touch – Tactile
Vestibular – Movement and Balance
Proprioception – Position of Body in Space

People with neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism or ADHD frequently experience significant difficulty with sensory processing.

Young children exploring the world around them as they learn are often drawn to or away from certain sensory stimulus. It’s when this becomes a problem that doesn’t go away it’s worth beginning to look deeper into whether a sensory processing difficulty might be occurring with your child.

Sensory Space Sensory Play

Sensory processing difficulties come in two distinct forms:

Hyper Responsive – Over registering sensory input causing them to avoid it such as sudden loud noise
Hypo Responsive – Under registering sensory input causing them to seek it out such as excessive spinning

It’s possible for a mix of responses of both in one child and perfectly normal for the intensity to vary each day. A calm child may deal with sensory processing messages better than if they are stressed and anxious.

If your child is frightened of loud noises, busy shopping centres and tends to hide, chew clothes or run away, this would indicate an over responsive child. Are you often being told your child lashes out for no apparent reason, it could also mean they have been touched, brushed past or gently bumped into because tactile sensitivity is a common trait not often noticed in the heat of the moment.

An under responsive child will generally be the opposite. These are the ones who may literally bounce off of things, rock, spin and fidget as they seek out an intense sensory response.

The ultimate goal is to create what is known as a Sensory Diet to help children cope with their day. This is best done with the aid of an occupational therapist and professional advice and diagnosis. Ultimately, working out what best supports your child will come down to a trial and error method at home working out what works, what doesn’t work and what works sometimes. It’s perfectly typical for no two days to be the same and for the sensory processing difficulties to fluctuate.

Living with children with sensory processing difficulties can be challenging, with out of the house and transitioning periods being stressful for all.

You can find more information, suggestions and activities for living with sensory processing difficulties and other neurological development disorders in our Sensory Space section.