Red Flags for Sensory Processing Disorder

May 21, 2013

What is sensory processing?

Sensory processing refers to how individuals process the information provided by all the sensations coming internally from the body from the environment. These senses work together to give us a sense of the world and our place in it. The brain organizes the information about the different smell, sounds, textures, sights, tastes, and movements that surround us. This organization of sensory information allows us to put meaning to the world around us and gives us a sense of how to respond and behave appropriately. When the organization of sensory information is impaired, it can affect the way in which we live our everyday lives.  Impairments with sensory processing have been found to have a great impact on activities such as play, work, learning, social interactions, and everyday activities.

You might have wondered, “Do I or Does my child/loved one have a sensory processing disorder?” There is an excellent resource for people with sensory processing difficulties at the Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Foundation website: http://www.spdfoundation.net/index.html.

They have a checklist (see below) describing symptoms that may fit someone you know with sensory processing difficulties. Please note that this checklist cannot diagnose someone with SPD. It can be help determine if additional testing should be done. When filling out this checklist, think about the individual’s behavior during the past six months. When more than a few symptoms are found in an individual, we recommend that you talk with your doctor/pediatrician or occupational therapist.

Sensory Processing Disorder Checklist

Many of the symptoms listed in the following categories are common to that particular age group.

Infant/ Toddler Checklist:
____ My infant/toddler has problems eating.
____ My infant/toddler refused to go to anyone but me.
____ My infant/toddler has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
____ My infant/toddler is extremely irritable when I dress him/her; seems to be uncomfortable in clothes.
____ My infant/toddler rarely plays with toys, especially those requiring dexterity.
____ My infant/toddler has difficulty shifting focus from one object/activity to another.
____ My infant/toddler does not notice pain or is slow to respond when hurt.
____ My infant/toddler resists cuddling, arches back away from the person holding him.
____ My infant/toddler cannot calm self by sucking on a pacifier, looking at toys, or listening to my voice.
____ My infant/toddler has a “floppy” body, bumps into things and has poor balance.
____ My infant/toddler does little or no babbling, vocalizing.
____ My infant/toddler is easily startled.
____ My infant/toddler is extremely active and is constantly moving body/limbs or runs endlessly.
____ My infant/toddler seems to be delayed in crawling, standing, walking or running.

 

Pre-School Checklist:
____ My child has difficulty being toilet trained.
____ My child is overly sensitive to stimulation, overreacts to or does not like touch, noise, smells, etc.
____ My child is unaware of being touched/bumped unless done with extreme force/intensity.
____ My child has difficulty learning and/or avoids performing fine motor tasks such as using crayons and fasteners on clothing.
____ My child seems unsure how to move his/her body in space, is clumsy and awkward.
____ My child has difficulty learning new motor tasks.
____ My child is in constant motion.
____ My child gets in everyone else’s space and/or touches everything around him.
____ My child has difficulty making friends (overly aggressive or passive/ withdrawn).
____ My child is intense, demanding or hard to calm and has difficulty with transitions.
____ My child has sudden mood changes and temper tantrums that are unexpected.
____ My child seems weak, slumps when sitting/standing; prefers sedentary activities.
____ It is hard to understand my child’s speech.
____ My child does not seem to understand verbal instructions.

 

School Age:
___ My child is overly sensitive to stimulation, overreacts to or does not like touch, noise, smells, etc.
___ My child is easily distracted in the classroom, often out of his/her seat, fidgety.
___ My child is easily overwhelmed at the playground, during recess and in class.
___ My child is slow to perform tasks.
___ My child has difficulty performing or avoids fine motor tasks such as handwriting.
___ My child appears clumsy and stumbles often, slouches in chair.
___ My child craves rough housing, tackling/wrestling games.
___ My child is slow to learn new activities.
___ My child is in constant motion.
___ My child has difficulty learning new motor tasks and prefers sedentary activities.
___ My child has difficulty making friends (overly aggressive or passive/ withdrawn).
___ My child ïgets stuck’ on tasks and has difficulty changing to another task.
___ My child confuses similar sounding words, misinterprets questions or requests.
___ My child has difficulty reading, especially aloud.
___ My child stumbles over words; speech lacks fluency, and rhythm is hesitant.

 

Adolescent/Adult:
___ I am over-sensitive to environmental stimulation: I do not like being touched.
___ I avoid visually stimulating environments and/or I am sensitive to sounds.
___ I often feel lethargic and slow in starting my day.
___ I often begin new tasks simultaneously and leave many of them uncompleted.
___ I use an inappropriate amount of force when handling objects.
___ I often bump into things or develop bruises that I cannot recall.
___ I have difficulty learning new motor tasks, or sequencing steps of a task.
___ I need physical activities to help me maintain my focus throughout the day.
___ I have difficulty staying focused at work and in meetings.
___ I misinterpret questions and requests, requiring more clarification than usual.
___ I have difficulty reading, especially aloud.
___ My speech lacks fluency, I stumble over words.
___ I must read material several times to absorb the content.
___ I have trouble forming thoughts and ideas in oral presentations.

For more information the SPD Foundation website recommends checking out the SPD Foundation’s Treatment Directory (http://www.spdfoundation.net/directory/index.html) for a professional experienced with treating Sensory Processing Disorder.

 

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Communication: Just a Few Changes Make All the Difference……

January 25, 2012

By practicing the following changes in our style of communication, many children diagnosed with Autism and receptive/ expressive language delays may increase their language and social skills, peer interactions, expand play skills, and follow directions with greater confidence.

Eye level Contact: To increase social interaction and gain eye contact with your child, remember to kneel down to his/ her eye level. Face to face eye contact allows the child to see your whole face, imitate facial expressions, and respond to your verbal directions. This position also gives you an opportunity to put your arm around your child’s waist to face him toward you, touch his/her shoulders to gain attention, or model hand gestures with hand-over-hand assistance.

Tone of Voice: Your child might be sensitive to the pitch and tone of your voice. If your child covers his ears, winces, or looks away when you speak to him, practice lowering your tone of voice to a moderate level. When you are at your child’s eye level, speak slowly and clearly.  Use visual aids to enhance communication. For example; tap on the chair and say “Sit in the chair”, or show an item or a picture of where you want your child to go.

Exaggerated facial expressions/ hand gestures: If your child does not imitate your facial expressions and hand gestures, practice exaggerating your face and hand movements as a model. For example, when your child sees you from across the room, make a large happy face and big eyes. Wave your hands in a large swooping motion, as opposed to wiggling your fingers in tight/ small motions. A person standing next to your child can help him/ her respond by assisting to wave back in the same fashion.  Exaggerated facial expressions and hand gestures allows your child to feel the sensation of movement and encourage muscle memory, which promotes communication.

Body Proximity: Avoid speaking to your child when his back is to you. Often, children have difficulty filtering out the sounds in a room, and distinguishing a parent’s voice at the same time. Try moving close to your child and mirroring his position before speaking to him. For example if your child is on the floor playing with cars, join him on the floor. Gain his eye contact by bringing a toy to the side of your face, then speak to him/ her.

First____, Then_____…. When asking your child to follow directions, remember to keep your child’s motivation in mind. He/ she may not prefer to put on his shoes, for example. But if he/ she wants to go to the park, incorporate that as a reward in a two step direction. For example “First, put your shoes on. Then, we will go to the park.” A simpler version could be “First, shoes…Then, park.”

With a few adjustments, and a lot of practice, children diagnosed with Autism and receptive/ expressive language delays will learn new ways to respond to their environment, and expand their communication skills. Adults can offer the support a child needs by changing our communicative habits to meet the needs of children.

 

-April Kumlin, Speech and Language Pathologist Assistant