Sensory Integration Dysfunction

Jul 22, 2000

I wanted to give an explanation of what Sensory Processing means and share what types of therapy have been used with my four year old son.

For the past year my son has received Occupational Therapy in his preschool special education class as part of his Individual Education Plan, known as an IEP. We also have received a clinic based therapy through our Health Maintenance Organization, known as an HMO for over a year.

What my son learns in the school based therapy is different from the clinic based. I am writing this sooner than I planned because this was part of a segment just last night (July 21, 2000) on the ABC show 20/20. Dr. Nancy Snyderman did a piece on Sensory Integration Dysfunction and I wanted to add some information and share about how this disorder affects my son.

It has also come to my attention that the next issue of Newsweek magazine, issue July 31, 2000 (on sale Monday, July 24th) is a cover story of a family with a son who has Autism. What better time to help spread the awareness of these two disorders.

The show addressed the same senses that my son has problems with. This would include:

The simple task of combing a child's hair is not easy to do. Both my sons cannot handle the stroke of the brush or comb on their head. To cut their hair is very difficult and I do it when they are in the bathtub and distracted. I have a product called No Rinse Shampoo that gets squirted right on their head, lather and rinse. No need to get their eyes wet or have them experience unnecessary discomfort.

I try to relate to the senses that they do respond to instead of forcing the issue. My four year old will scream until the sock is put on the right way, according to him. If there is a hole anywhere in the sock, it is easier to take it off. I find this out while observing him in a corner tugging at his sock. My five year old wants to put his socks on, and they go on however he chooses and I praise him for putting on his socks.

Instead of wiping my older sons mouth when it is dirty, I tell him to go get the bathroom hand held mirror, and get a baby wipe. We use these wipes for dusting and cleaning of toys and faces. He then sits on the couch and sees his face is dirty and wipes it himself. I heard from the preschool special ed teacher he had, that his brother has as well, that he would tell a girl in his class that her face was dirty after eating. So I used her as an example when I saw his face was dirty.

He will tell me when his brother needs his face cleaning. That is a quick wipe if you are lucky. When I have finished wiping his face with one swoop, he will sit there and wipe his face about ten times to rid the wipe I just did. He does not like the feel of anything on his face and I try to sneak some vaseline on his lips when they appear dry and that is no easy task either.

What he does like is to turn on and off the television set and run his fingers along the screen. He enjoys the volume at higher than average volume levels and you can hear the videos from across the street.

He also can sit on the kitchen floor and play with a streak of sunlight that comes in late afternoon from the window. You can find it at times under the kitchen table touching the wood underneath.

I see it as exploring his senses and he is very aware of the surroundings. He liked when we pumped up the whale the other day, and he sits on it in the living room. I put the pump in the corner area it stays in and a minute later there he was carrying it back to the whale. He wanted to see the pumping action again.

The sounds of the pumping of air, seeing the whale get larger really peaked an interest. We deflated and started over again. I tried to get him to touch the pump handle, but he was interested in observing. I was so impressed that he picked up the pump and brought it back, I told the teacher as well.

She told me just yesterday that for the water play, he waited for all the other kids to get out of the pool before he entered. He loves water play, sand play and bubble type toys.

For the therapies I mentioned earlier, the school based one is for one time a week for 45 minutes. Through sensory strategies, to modify his behaviors, he will participate in table top activities and circle time. This will be puzzles, peg boards and coloring. He receives physical and verbal cues and there are goals set forth in his IEP for the coming year.

There is outside therapy which includes using roller skates and I have a picture to know he had them on. He likes to be pulled in a wagon.

For the clinic based therapy he receives the brushing techniques mentioned in the 20/20 piece and also uses the balls and the swings. They also work on feeding issues and the communication using the signing and PECS.

My five year old just started Kindergarten special education and he will be receiving come September occupational therapy in the school once a month to aide in his pincer grasp.

If you think your child may have some of these issues, contact the school district and ask for an assessment. From there a occupational therapist will come to the school, observe and then an IEP meeting would be set up to discuss the observations and goals and come to a plan to be utilized through the year.

For the clinic based type contact the family doctor or Pediatrician and ask for a referral for occupational therapy and mention Sensory Integration. Many children that are on the Autism Spectrum also have sensory issues and benefit from occupational therapy.

I hope those that read this would help in spreading the Awareness of Autism by purchasing the July 31, 2000 issue of Newsweek and take a glimpse into the lives of those of us raising children with Autism.

** RESOURCES (This is Families for Early Autism Treatment) You can sign up to receive their daily newsletters about pertinent information in the Autism field and other issues as well. There are two to three printed daily. (ON MONDAY JULY 24th at 2PM EST a CHAT ON THIS ISSUE)

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Sensory Processing is the neurological process by which sensations (such as from the skin, eyes, joints, muscles, gravity and movement receptors) are organized for us. It refers to the way in which a child registers and perceives sensory information through a variety of sensory channels (eyes, skin, etc.) Adequate sensory processing is necessary for the development of good body scheme and body awareness, which, in turn, leads to good motor planning.

For most children, sensory integration develops in the course of their play (playing with sand, swinging, climbing, building with constructional toys, etc.)

Signs of Sensory Integrative Dysfunction :

Delayed Motor or language skills or academic under achievement
Coordination difficulties
Under - or - Oversensitivity to touch, movement, sights, sounds or smells
Unusually high or low activity level
Poor organization of behavior
Low self-esteem

Outcome of Sensory Integrative Therapy

Improved gross and fine motor coordination
Improved emotional adjustment
Improved personal and social skills
Improved Language skills and academic performance

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