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Common Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder and Why They Occur

Child Covers Ears to Noise

Sensory processing disorder or sensory integration dysfunction is a condition in which the brain struggles to appropriately organize and respond to information that it receives through one or more of the body's seven senses: touch, taste, hearing, smell, sight, balance and body awareness. Although these sensory systems evolve independently, they constantly interact with each other and as with any system, things can occasionally go wrong.

Indicators of a Sensory Processing Disorder

The signs of sensory processing disorder are many and varied, and they differ between children. You may find yourself asking the following questions about your child, which may indicate difficulties with hypersensitivity to sensory experiences:

  • Why does my child cover her ears when she flushes a toilet?
  • Why does my son hate hugs?
  • Why is my daughter such a picky eater?
  • Why can't my son keep his eyes focused on intricate tasks?
  • Why won't my child wear jeans?

Or, you may wonder why the following hyposensitivity to sensory experiences occur:

  • Why doesn't my child startle at sudden or loud noises?
  • Why does my son need constant touch, even when it is inappropriate to do so?
  • Why does my daughter love to spin around endlessly?
  • Why does my child only crave foods with strong flavors?

A child with sensory processing disorder will not necessarily exhibit every red flag on this list. It is possible, for example, for a child with a vestibular disorder (balance disorder) to have poor balance and coordination, but actively seek out activities that require good balance. Sometimes a child may show characteristics of a sensory processing disorder sporadically rather than repetitively. For instance, a child with an auditory processing disorder (hearing disorder) may show signs of distress upon hearing background environmental sounds one day, but fail to notice them the next.

According to neuroscientist Anna Jean Ayres, Ph.D., sensory processing disorder results from a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain areas of the brain from receiving the information required to correctly interpret sensory information, such as sights, sounds or movements. Children who misinterpret sensory information may become hypersensitive and actively avoid these specific sensory experiences or become hyposensitive and actively seek out these sensory experiences. Research is underway to determine the exact cause of these reactions, but studies suggest that genetic and environmental factors may play a role.

All children experience sensory problems from time to time because a range of stimuli can temporarily disrupt normal brain functioning. When a sensory processing disorder is present, effective treatment can help children become used to the sensory experiences they cannot tolerate.

If your child struggles with processing sensory input or is already considered to have a processing disorder, contact us online or find a center near you to learn more about how the Brain Balance Program can help.

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