Sensory Processing is the effective registration and accurate interpretation of sensory input within the environment and from one’s own body. It is the way in which the brain receives, organises and responds to sensory input. Children who have significant difficulty processing sensory information may have what is termed Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). However, sensory processing issues can often be seen in children who have Autism, ADHD, Anxiety, Dyspraxia/Motor Planning challenges & Learning Difficulties etc.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a very complex neurological condition that impacts on the functional skills of approximately 1 in 20 children. Children who have SPD or Sensory Processing challenges, misinterpret everyday sensory input such as touch, movement and sound. They can then feel overwhelmed by sensory information, they may seek out sensory input or may avoid certain types of sensory experiences.
The brain and nervous system receive input from the body (internal) and from the environment (external). The central nervous system transmits messages throughout the body and functions like an internal computer system. The messages transmitted affects muscle movement, coordination, learning, memory, emotion, behaviour and also thinking skills. As with a computer, a breakdown in one part of the system can impact on all other parts.
Most literature recognises that there are 7 primary sensory systems vision, hearing (auditory), taste, smell, touch (tactile), pressure (proprioception) and movement (vestibular). However, recent research has discovered that the 7 sensory systems don’t work alone & the eighth system is INTEROPCEPTION. Interoception allows us to “feel” internal sensations (referred to as body signals) coming from many areas of our body.
Clearly noticing & understanding these body signals help us identify how we feel (e.g. before speaking in front of a room full of people, you may notice your heartbeat increase, muscles tense, stomach flutter & slight overall shakiness). Based on how you feel at that moment (your body signals), you recognise that you feel nervous. For many people, this occurs in a split second without having to think about it. For others, it doesn’t happen naturally & it takes hard work to notice body signals & work out how they feel in a given moment. Noticing body signals & connecting them to emotions, allows us to intuitively answer the question “how do I feel?”
Self-regulation is defined as the ability to identify and manage how you feel. To self-regulate you need to be clearly aware of how your body feels which in turn provides valuable information about your emotions. Self-regulation involves a body-emotion regulation connection.
At Amazing Kids OT we assess and treat children who are displaying sensory processing difficulties, poor self-regulation and interoception challenges.