Sensory processing is our brain’s attempt to make sense of the world, our experiences, and provides information about our body. Young developing minds are bombarded every minute of the day by new sensations as well as sensations they have already experienced. The brain must organize all this incoming information in order for your child to move, learn and behave in a productive manner. The flow of sensations have to be sifted, sorted, located, and ordered by the brain. When the “flow” of sensation is managed and well organized (i.e. sensory integration) the brain can begin to form memories, perceptions, and appropriate reactions and responses. This shapes the underlying foundational skills for children to be productive learners and social beings.
None of us organize sensations well all the time. Lack of adequate sleep, poor nutrition, illness, and/or stressful events can temporarily shift us into a “disorganized’ states. However, when there is chronic poor sensory processing, this can interfere with your child’s daily functions and coping. Some early signs and symptoms of poor sensory processing for infants can be delays in rolling over, sitting, crawling, poor sleep and eating patterns, frequently distressed, and/or difficult to sooth or comfort. For toddlers, walking or running may appear awkward or clumsy, avoidance of movement, distressed during bathing or tooth brushing, or limited variety or textures of food in their daily diet. Emotional responses may be extreme such as frequent or very long tantrums, while others may not react to touch sensations such as extra hot food or falling down as you would expect.
If you have concerns that your child is experiencing difficulties with sensory processing, seek out an occupational therapist. TEIS therapists are trained to explore and assess your child’s sensory processing abilities through their natural play and actions, standardized tests, and listening to your concerns and observations.