Mike is an intelligent student, with good ideas. However, when he tries to write, he struggles to produce even one paragraph. Homework time is difficult-the classroom teacher says homework should take 30 minutes, yet Mike struggles for 90 minutes every evening; often these sessions end with tears and yelling. In class, he always fiddles with something in his hands, chews on a pencil or taps on his desk. He fidgets in his seat almost constantly. He consistently gets Cs on his report card and does not qualify for Special Education services.
Sally always gets in trouble when it is time to line up in the classroom. She can’t stand still and moves in and out of the line, even after multiple reminders to line up quietly. She often pushes or shoves classmates roughly, breaks her pencil lead, and bumps into other children’s desks. She has trouble making and keeping friends and is not invited to birthday parties or play dates.
Students like Mike and Sally have difficulties succeeding at school but often fall through the cracks because their issues, while quite challenging to them, are not so severe that it diminishes their academic performance significantly enough to qualify them for special help. Parents of children like this often do not know where to turn for help. Both Sally and Mike have difficulty with sensory integration. This means being able to take in information from the senses, process it and respond to it appropriately. “Sensory information” means the input from the visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile systems, as well as the internal senses of balance, body position and internal bodily sensations. This disorder, known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), can cause behavior problems because it impacts the child’s ability to self-regulate. Children with SPD often have high levels of anxiety, and impaired social, self-care, and organizational skills.
Hallmark signs of SPD:
- difficulty with new or unexpected situations/changes in plans
- hates tags in shirts/seams in socks, limited diet, smells everything
- inconsistent behavioral responses
- inability to self-calm/self-regulate leading to extreme or extended tantrums
- extreme disorganization of personal belongings
- challenges with learning new movements
- challenges with organizing writing assignments or long-term projects
- can be inattentive, distractible, or always on the go
Children with SPD need to be evaluated by an occupational therapist who is familiar with sensory integration theory and practice. Way to Grow specializes in treating children with sensory issues and SPD and helping their parents learn strategies for how to successfully address their needs and see improvement in their conditions.