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Past Articles:
HELPING CHILDREN WITH SENSORY ISSUES

By: Hudi Schweky



Sensory Overload is when the brain picks up
too much information and has difficulty filtering the relevant information from the non-relevant information. (Causing the brain to become overwhelmed with sensory information). The brain may not be filtering theinformation properly because it may be perceiving benign information as a threat. When the brain feels threatened it responds to all information and takes all information seriously.
Overresponsiveness to sensory information can result from an overly active startle reflex.

Sensory Unresponsiveness is when the brain does not fully perceive information from the environment due to under-developed vision, auditory (hearing) and balance processing systems or reflexes. When this happens, the brain misses out on important information. This causes the brain to become confused and disoriented.

Sensory Overload and Under-responsiveness causes the individual to feel dysregulated and not full comfortable with his environment. We know that the brain is programed to protect itself in an uncomfortable situation. Therefore, it goes into protection mode, also know as fight or flight response.

For example, a child who is being bombarded with sensory information will struggle with focusing in class.

When Bart tries to concentrate on what the teacher is saying, he also notices the feeling of the chair he is sitting on, the kid who is clicking his pen, and the cherry lights from the police car parked outside. So he ends up inappropriately shouting at the boy making noise, so thathe could pay attention.

A person with typical sensory processing will notice these things and then to filter it out in order focus on the teacher, a hypersensitive child cannot.

A child who misses out on sensory information due to decreased processing is trying to pay attention in class but he can’t keep up.

Sammy may “space out” because is just too frustrating (flight response) or he could try his best to keep up and likely become frustrated (fight response). Alternately, he could choose to not take notes, and just pay attention (less demands on the sensory system), but then he is stressed because he does not have notes to study from.

When a child feels dysregulated, it can affect the whole family!

Calming and regulating strategies to help your child:

•  Calming massage: help your child feel calm and grounded by giving him a deep pressure massage on his arms, legs, hands and feet, using a therapy brush, lotion massage, or your hands.

•   Better breathing! Have your child trace a figure 8 with his finger or eyes while breathing out, to promote regulation.

•   Play! Playing with your child promotes bonding and makes him feel secure. Play also encourages exploration and curiosity, which is the best antidote for a stressed brain.

•   Sharp Sense: to help the brain process information more efficiently and strengthen sensory processing.

Encourage you child to perform multisensory activities in synchrony, i.e.: bouncing a ball to a beat.

•   Soothing the startle response: calming the startle response helps the hypersensitive child self-regulate. Instruct your child
to put his hands on his knees and slowly push into his knees for 30 seconds and breathe. Repeat three times.

•   Magic Music: Listening to filtered music CDs, may help relax your child.

Self-Regulation:
What is it?

Self-regulation is the brain’s ability to adapt easily to new situations, and regulate emotions, behavior and functional activities such as sleeping and eating. When a child is regulated his brain is calm, focused and functional. He is able to get along with others, tolerate changes in routine, eat well and sleep peacefully.

Sensory Processing: What is it?

Sensory processing is the brain and body’s ability to send each other messages to perceive information through the senses and the brain’s ability to interpret and respond appropriately.
The senses include, taste, smell, touch, sight, sound, movement and body orientation.

For example: A child feels raindrops with his sense of touch. The touch receptors send a message to the brain and the brain sends a message back identifying the qualities of the rain, it is wet and cold.