A Sensory World
It can be so overwhelming as a Parent when you learn that your child has Special Needs. I know when I was first told about Conor having Autism (ASD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) I was blindsided. I had no idea what either of these words meant let alone what they would mean for my son and for his future.
Having recently found out that my youngest son Jack (2) has the same diagnosis as his older brother Conor (ASD, SPD, NV) I decided I wanted re-educate myself on all things ASD and SPD. In the beginning when you first find out about your child’s conditions if you are like me you will buy a wealth of books, you will look online, you look everywhere imaginable and speak to everyone you think may have the answers you seek.
I did all of that with Conor and to be honest I have forgotten most of it or I have just remembered what is useful to know for Conor. The one thing I have learned is that as your child grows their needs will change, some challenges will wane some will become more prominent and some will quiet literally shock you when you learn of their existence.
What I also had forgotten is how vast the Sensory Spectrum is, on the same lines as the Autism Spectrum, no two children with SPD will ever present exactly the same, as no two children can experience the world around them in the exact same manner. If you think about it your regulation of your Sensory Systems, it is incredibly personal to you, much like your fingerprint.
Jack exhibits completely different symptoms of SPD to his older brother Conor, as far as SPD goes, they are polar opposites. I now have to look at what SPD is from a new angle so I can better help both my little boys. I have decided to share the information I learn along the way in the hope it will help you also, from one Parent to another.x
Learn about SPD
I can teach myself almost anything if I create visuals for it so you will find the blog posts on SPD will be packed with info-graphs and visuals you can print off for yourself. I intend to write a series of posts on SPD so that you won’t be overloaded with too much information all at once.
What is Sensory Processing?
Sensory Processing is essentially how we organize the information we take in innately from our bodies, and also the extrinsic factors from the outside world. It is ceaseless in that it occurs all the time, we are unaware of it’s existence (until there is a problem) because it is cyclical, ever happening, it is ceaseless and automatic. It occurs in the nervous system, which consists of 100 billion neurons, a spinal cord and a brain (Kranowitz, 2005).
Our Brain works to process all the sensations that are “taken in” by our Sensory Systems, if we do not have SPD, we automatically adapt and respond enabling ourselves to inhabit our environment with ease.
Sensory Processing can be broken down into the following stages-
Sensory-based Motor Skills
Components to effective Sensory Processing
Essentially the process conducted in the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS-system outside of brain and spinal cord) wherein millions of sensations are received (from our Sensory Systems) and travel through the PNS to our Central Nervous System (CNS – the brain and the spinal cord).
It is the process within the CNS wherein all of these sensations are acknowledged.
The meeting place in the brain. All of the different sensations created by the differing Sensory Systems “meet” together in the brain. The brain acts as a “connector”, integrating the differing sensations thereafter encouraging the body to adapt appropriately to the messages received.
This occurs in the Central Nervous System (CNS). The brain acts as a moderator/regulator of all sensory input,encouraging all of the sensations to synchronize so that they it helps all work as “one”, in tandem. Modulation instantly adjusts and balances the flow of sensory information into the CNS, (Kranowitz, 2005).
Modulation is incredibly important to every aspect our lives, this is the power process that helps us to self-regulate. Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD) is one of the most common forms of SPD among children. (A future post will discuss SMD)
To discriminate is to be able to tell the difference of temporal and spatial characteristics of sensations. Sensory Discrimination is the ability to discriminate between differing sensory stimuli. As the child matures neurologically so too will their sensory discrimination abilities.
Sensory-based Motor Skills
Once the CNS has received-detected-integrated-modulated-discriminated all incoming sensory messages, it then sends out newly formatted messages which prepare the child/adult to take action.
This is the body’s ability to pull itself upwards against the pull of gravity. It is the ability to retain a stable position when carrying out an activity, to be able to maintain your equilibrium and bilateral co-ordination when moving. (Kranowitz, 2005)
Also know as motor planning- is the learned ability to carry out coordinated and voluntary actions. It is based partly on unconscious sensory processing and conscious thought. (Kranowitz, 2005)
Sensory Processing involves input, organization, output. No one part of the Central Nervous System works alone. Messages must go back and forth from part to another. (Kranowitz, 2005)
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Up next week is Part 2 of my series on Sensory Processing Disorder.
I hope you have found the above Visuals and information helpful.
I have been reading “The Out of Sync Child” by Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A and cannot recommend it highly enough. I have referenced Kranowitz’ book many times through out this post as it really is a “must have” book on SPD, with masses of useful information accessible in particular for parents and students wanting to learn more about SPD.
“The Out of Sync Child” by Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A
Publisher – The Penguin Group