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What are sensory processing issues? Everyone interprets and responds to various sensory experiences differently. Some children with sensory processing issues may have difficulties receiving and responding to information from their senses. The senses include vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and movement. Sensory processing issues include hypersensitivity, hyposensitivity, and sensory-seeking behaviours, that are explained below. Sensory processing issues are more common in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Sensory hypersensitivity Certain sensory experiences in our daily lives, like the honking of a car horn or bright lights, are tolerable to most people. However, some children are hypersensitive, or over-responsive, to sensations. They react differently because their brains perceive and interpret these sensations differently. What may seem like a normal sound to most of us may be unbearably loud for a child with sound hypersensitivity. Children with sensory hypersensitivity get easily distressed and may respond with challenging behaviours or meltdowns. Hypersensitivity to various sensory inputs may also make a child appear to be hypervigilant or anxious, easily distracted and lose focus easily.
Sensory hyposensitivity Conversely, children with sensory hyposensitivity are less sensitive and hence less responsive to sensations. Some examples of hyposensitivity include a lack of response to sensations such as pain, touch, smell and sound. Sensory hyposensitivity can be harder to detect in children because it may not produce the same challenging behaviour or meltdowns as hypersensitivity. Some children with hyposensitivity cannot tell when they are hungry or full, or if they need to use the toilet. A child may be accidentally injured and show hardly any reaction to the pain, even though the injury is sometimes quite severe.
Sensory-seeking behaviours Sensory-seeking refers to the craving for sensory stimulation. Some examples include children licking or biting toys beyond the age of two years, or rocking or spinning their body repetitively. Some may like to rub certain textures, or repeatedly bang or drop objects to hear the sounds.
What are some steps I can take to help my child cope with sensory processing issues?
References:Peter Vermeulen (2019). Are sensory issues in Autism really sensory? The predictive mind and sensory processing. ICC, Birmingham. Retrieved from