Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the brain has difficulty processing and responding to sensory information from the environment. Children with SPD may experience challenges in regulating their responses to sensory input, leading to difficulties in daily activities and social interactions. One effective intervention for children with Sensory Processing Disorder is occupational therapy. In this blog post, we will explore how occupational therapy can help children with Sensory Processing Disorder, the goals of therapy, and some common techniques used to support sensory integration.
Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder:
Sensory Processing Disorder affects how individuals perceive and respond to sensory stimuli such as touch, sound, taste, smell, and movement. Children with SPD may exhibit hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness) or hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness) to sensory input. These difficulties can impact their ability to participate in activities, interact with others, and regulate their emotions effectively.
The Role of Occupational Therapy:
Occupational therapy focuses on enabling individuals to participate in meaningful activities of daily life. For children with Sensory Processing Disorder, occupational therapy aims to improve their sensory processing abilities, enhance self-regulation, and promote successful participation in everyday activities.
Goals of Occupational Therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder:
- Occupational therapists work to improve the child's ability to process and respond to sensory input appropriately. This includes helping the child tolerate and integrate sensory information to enhance their overall functioning.
- Occupational therapy assists children in developing self-regulation skills, enabling them to manage their responses to sensory input, and changes in their environment effectively. This involves teaching strategies for self-calming, self-soothing, and self-control.
- Occupational therapists help children develop and improve their adaptive skills, such as dressing, feeding, and self-care tasks. The therapist will grade the amount of input/changes provided in their intervention so that the child can feel successful as they learn how to handle unexpected changes. They address any difficulties related to sensory processing that may hinder these activities.
- Occupational therapy supports children in developing social skills necessary for successful interaction with peers and family members. Therapists may incorporate group activities and play-based interventions to enhance social engagement and collaboration.
Common Techniques Used in Occupational Therapy for SPD:
Sensory Integration Therapy:
- This technique involves exposing the child to various sensory stimuli in a controlled manner, helping them to process and respond appropriately. Our therapy is child led and therapist guided so the child is always motivated to participate. As the session progresses the therapist will grade the level of difficulty based on the child's responses in real time. Activities may include swinging, jumping, and tactile exploration to improve sensory integration.
Deep Pressure and Proprioceptive Input:
- Occupational therapists use techniques such as deep pressure touch, joint compression, and weighted blankets to provide calming and organizing sensory input, helping the child regulate their responses.
- Vestibular input is movement through space. The Occupational therapist encourages the child to engage in activities that challenge their balance through static and dynamic equipment. An example of this would be having the child climb up a set of foam stairs and mount a suspended bridge swing.
Tactile Input or Touch:
- Occupational therapists will expose the child to a variety of tactile input whether it's using a velvet hammock or slime making. In doing this the child will be able to playfully engage in tactile mediums while having fun. This level of exposure can have a significant impact on the child's ability to tolerate clothing or hair cuts!
- Therapists assist families in creating a sensory-friendly environment that accommodates the child's specific sensory needs. This may involve adjusting lighting, noise levels, or providing sensory tools and equipment.
Visual Support for Adaptability and Transitions:
- Occupational therapists work with families to help a child transition or adapt their plan to a new plan. The therapist may suggest the use of visual supports, such as visual schedules or social stories, to help children with SPD understand and navigate daily activities more effectively.
Occupational therapy plays a vital role in supporting children with Sensory Processing Disorder. By addressing sensory integration challenges, improving self-regulation, and enhancing adaptive skills, occupational therapists help children develop the necessary abilities to participate in daily activities and social interactions more successfully. If you suspect that your child may have Sensory Processing Disorder, consult with a qualified occupational therapist who specializes in pediatric sensory integration to explore intervention options tailored to your child's unique needs.