Sensory issues in children is very, very common. This does not mean that its normal. Nor does this mean that your child has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), they just may have some symptoms or challenges but do not meet the criteria. SPD used to be classified under the Autism Spectrum, due to it being a spectrum in of itself. SPD is a condition that does not allow all of the information that is carried from our sensory nerves up to the brain to be sorted out and managed. There is nothing wrong with the sensory nerves per se, just that by the time that information reaches the brain, it has to get sorted through and that is where the problem is.
We all know of our 5 senses that we learned about in grade school sight, smell sound, taste, touch. What is not taught is proprioception and vestibular systems. Although not traditionally thought of as senses, and definitely not thought of as issues with SPD, these are in fact sensory systems that convey information to the brain and needs to be discussed. Proprioception is your brain’s “unconscious” awareness of where the body is, and the vestibular system is the brain’s awareness of where the head and neck are.
The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around – Thomas Edison. At HML when we discuss SPD or sensory issues with patients and parents of patients, we lump all of this into one. Why? Because other than taste and smell, all of these other senses basically go through one area of the brain (in regard to sensory processing) and that is the temporal-parietal-occipital junction (TPO), on the right side. From the TPO this information is projected to wherever it needs to go, mostly to other areas of the cortex like the frontal lobes.
When children are having issues with processing sensation it can because the TPO is not quite up to maturity. It’s like having an engine in a car that’s not running right, things will go slow and frustrating for the one driving, we need to methodically and strategically get that motor up to the task.
Children that have SPD or have some signs of it will not like sudden loud sounds, bright lights, music or the TV in the background, or tags on clothing or certain clothes. They may not like hugs and kisses – and is not because they don’t love you, it’s because they cannot handle the input. These kiddo’s may not due well in crowded loud places. Sometimes these children want A LOT of blankets, or use a weighted blanket on the bed, and that’s not because they’re cold, it’s because they need the weight to calm their brains to sleep. These are also the kids that will have behavioral issues, and emotional lability problems. This happens because they can only take so much input – lights, sounds, peoples voices, interactions with others, etc. and their “one-gallon bucket” as we say at HML is full and we need to upgrade them to a 5-gallon bucket.
Again, this is not because something is wrong, it is because the networks involved in processing all of this information are not quite matured up to where they should be. At HML we focus on getting these networks functioning where they should be. We do that by first running our functional neurological examination and seeing what the threshold is that the patient can handle, and what stimulation they need? Visual, vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, auditory? And from their increase the ability of the patient to process sensation!
Want to learn more? Contact us today to see how we can help!