Sensory processing disorder otherwise known as sensory integration disorder is a disease that affects interpretation of sensory information.
Sensory processing is a term used to describe the process of the senses sending messages to the central nervous system which is then turned into appropriate behavioral and motor responses. The nervous system which includes the brain receives information from certain body parts or stimuli outside the body. The information received is then processed and organized in the brain which is then sent to muscles or organs needed to perform functions which may involve: thought, behavior, emotion, memory, learning, coordination, and muscle movement. However, certain factors may affect the nervous system which causes malfunction in the interpretation of messages to perform certain functions.
In sensory processing disorder, the signals sent by the nervous system don’t lead to appropriate responses. This disorder can be compared to a ‘traffic jam’ that occurs in the nervous system, the information sent by the sensory organs may be block by something in certain parts of the brain that causes incorrect interpretation of sensory information. It may also be caused by problems in the brain that results to problems in processing and organizing sensory impulses. Individuals with this disease have difficulty processing and acting upon information received from the senses. This leads to trouble performing everyday activities. If not treated, it may result to school failure in children, depression, anxiety, behavioral problems, motor clumsiness, and many more.
Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory processing disorder can affect different age group. It may affect one sense such as: sight, movement, touch, hearing or multiple senses. A common symptom of the disease is to over or under respond to sensations. Examples of over responding include: holding hands over ears even to low volume noise, preferring to stay in the dark, avoids certain smells, seeks all kinds of activities which involves moving, and many more. On the other hand, symptoms involving under responding include: unable to hear properly, staring intensely at objects or people, inability to smell strong odors, muscle weakness, and many more. Motor skills and posture are common in children whose joints and muscles are affected. And since children with this disorder are like being on overdrive, they are often misdiagnosed to have ADHD.
The disorder is most common in children, however, without treatment, symptoms may continue to adulthood. Adults affected by the disorder have difficulty performing activities or routines related to recreation, relationships, and work. Furthermore, because of the struggle fighting the disorder for most of their lives, secondary effects may occur such as: social isolation, underachievement, and even depression.
Causes of Sensory Processing Disorder
Parents often blame themselves for the occurrence of the disorder in their child. The causes of this disorder may vary from one child to the other. Certain factors may also cause the disease. The disease is said to be inherited or passed through the genes. It is also associated to habits and problems of the mother during the stage of pregnancy which includes: placental problems, chronic illnesses, viruses, emotional stresses, alcohol, drugs, smoking, toxins, medications, and harmful medications. A link between multiple births such as twins and triplets is also said to be a factor for the occurrence of the disorder.
Birth and postnatal problems may also be a factor for the disorder’s appearance. Birth problems include: surgery after birth, lack of oxygen, emergency caesarean section, birth trauma, low birth weight, and premature birth. On the other hand, postnatal problems that may cause the disorder include: being placed in an orphanage, hospitalization, limited interaction or play with the child, child abuse, and environmental pollutants.
Treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder
Studies have shown that most children affected by sensory processing disorder are more intelligent or intellectually gifted compared to their peers. However, these children need changes with regards to activities that should suit their needs. This includes teaching them about leisure activities appropriate for their condition as well as adapting to how their system processes the information.
Once diagnosed, children with this disorder may be required to undergo therapy such as occupational therapy. The therapy is done with assistance from a professional. Other therapies may also be utilized and used in tandem with occupational therapy. Occupational therapy involves fun activities that are challenging and is structured according to the child’s ability. The goal of this therapy is to allow the child to adopt and act in a functional manner. Over time, responses learned from this therapy are then utilized in environments other than the clinic which includes the school and home. This enables the child to normally participate in activities such as: sleeping, dressing, eating, and playing with friends.
Treatment for sensory processing disorder aims to aid parents and other people living and working with the affected child to understand the disorder. This includes accepting that the disorder exists. This helps the child cope better with the disease.
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