View Full Version : What are sensory issues in kids?
10-07-2009, 03:02 PM
I have seen them mentioned several times but am not clear as to what they are or how they are dignosed and how are they overcome. Anyone care to explain it to me.
10-07-2009, 04:17 PM
I would honestly like a definition too or some other examples. I really don't know much about it, honestly, but can tell you that Greenbean has some sensory issues. His physical therapist (who's also OT) had a son with "sensory issues." She was seeing Greenbean for low muscle tone about a year ago and commented that he seems to have some too. Greenbean seems to become over-stimulated easily. When his 3 siblings are running around with all the lights on in aroom and making a ton of noise, he stays away. When he was a baby he cried for hours at night and I now think he had a hard time soothing himself from all the activity/stimuli during the day. In order for him to go to sleep I have to have a white noise machine on, he needs to have something to suck on (preferably a bottle with baby nipple), and it needs to be absolutely dark in the room. I keep the door to his room open a crack and even the low light from the hallway bothers him (so I put a blanket over that side of his crib to shield the light). He loves to be held really tight and used to LOVE the Moby Wrap. Being carried around in that tight up against me for several hours was the only that would calm him down enough to sleep. He seems to crave and need something in his mouth all the time. If there isn't anything else, he will go into the bathroom and tear off little pieces of toilet paper to chew.
None of my other children had those sleep issues or obsession with chewing. And I don't know of other children with more severe issues that actually hinder their playing and growing. And I know nothing about what is done to help them. Maybe someone else here can chime in. Not sure I was all that helpful.
So many aspects (hyper/hypo), how about browsing this website (I was just browsing it myself for one of speech pathology classes)?
10-07-2009, 05:13 PM
I am curious too. I suspect DD may have some sensory issues but I'm not sure how much of it is normal 2 yo behavior and what may be something more.
Ex. She walks on her toes, she must touch everything around her, she gnaws on her fingers and she has a hard time sitting still for very long.
She also has low muscle tone too but I didn't know that was somehow related (?)
10-07-2009, 08:01 PM
The site linked to above is a good one. Just to add on a little from my own experience though, some very simplified info.
Some kids (and adults for that matter) seek out extra sensory input, and some avoid it. Some seek some types, but avoid others. Pretty much everyone has some very mild type of sensory "quirks", but the difference is that those who have a real issue are more profoundly impacted by it. Nobody likes loud noise, but some some of us are able to handle it and cope. A child with sensory issues might have a total meltdown b/c of a fire alarm going off. Everyone has food preferences, but a child with texture problems might gag b/c of lumps in oatmeal. You'll hear the terms "sensory issues", Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or Sensory Integration Disorder (SID).
DS has issues with noises- he's very bothered by some- like the beep of a cash register, but likes others- lound banging for example. In school, he's having problems at the begining and end of the day b/c that's when they have center time, and the noise and activity levels totally overwhelm him.
He had some very mild tactile issues as well- he avoided getting his hands messy, resisted having them washed, went through a stage where he couldn't tolerate any tags in his clothing- it's still almost impossible to get him to try on new clothing if it still has the tags attached, he used to totally freak out if someone lightly bumped into him, etc. He doesn't tolerate mixed textures in food- he likes spaghetti, and he likes meat sauce, but can't eat them in the same bite. He likes the ingredients in chicken noodle soup, but will only eat the chunky parts without the broth. He had serious postural insecurity and vestibular issues- he was scared to death on swings. He still won't climb to the top of an enclosed play structure, but enjoys swinging now, as long as it's not too fast. These are just a few examples.
Occupational therapists are usually the ones who diagnose sensory issues. The parents (or other caregivers) fill out a bunch of stuff, and the therapist observes the child. There are various things they do in OT. DS has done things like finger painting with pudding, playing in rice, TONS of swinging (different types of swings that provide him with different sensations), heavy work activities, deep pressure activities and riding a zipline and dropping into a ball pit just to give you an idea.
What's even more important than OT sessions is what the therapist teaches the parent to do at home. We done brushing with DS (you use a very soft, flexible brush to brush their arms, legs, etc, then do joint compressions), Therapeutic Listening (the child listens to specially altered CDs with special headphones, which impacts their nervous system), along with a bunch of other stuff.
We've seen progress in some areas, and not so much in others. DS is a tough nut to crack, and nobody is sure exactly what is going on with him. I personally think it's a combination of his cardiac issues, sensory issues, speech delay, and ADHD. If you were to see him in a store, on a typical day, he'd look like a very normal kid, who was acting wild. You might think his parents just didn't discipline him, or that he needed a nap. In reality though, I know that the lights are bothering him, the noises are bombarding him, the visual stimulation is totally overwhelming him, and that riding backwards in a cart is almost impossible for him to tolerate. He'd want to run around, might be speaking too loudly, would likely be touching everything, and would be very difficult for me to keep under control. Before I had DS, I would have looked at a family like ours and rolled my eyes, but now anytime I see a kid totally freaking out in public, I always give the parents the benefit of the doubt!
No time to proofread right now- gotta run. Hope this makes sense!
I really didn't know much about this until DS was diagnosed with SID. DS is very tactily defensive. You cannot touch him from behind. He hates it. He does not like to be touched in general by anyone except myself, DH, DD and my parents really. He hates music but likes the sound of the vaaccum cleaner. He seeks out stimulation (constantly running, jumping and crashing). He wakes up every morning and chews a piece of gum to help stimulate himself. He also hates tags in clothes and only eats soups, yogurt, peanut butter, mac and cheese, hamburgers, fries, gyro meat and pizza. He melts down on a regular basis (we are talking around 7-15 times a day b/c he has made his little world so regimented and he cannot function well outside of it). DS is also 2 years behind in gross and fine motor skills. He is in OT now and has made great strides with respect to gross motor, but fine motor is still not really there. He also is more comfortable around people and will say hello and goodbye (he just recently started this). We just also started therapeutic listening and that is going really well.
At home we have a trampoline. We also do alot of deep muscle stimulation. We have started to really work on fine motor at home (with the OT's help). If you saw DS at a store with me you would basically see a very shy kid who sticks close to me. As soon as he feels safe though, he will be off and running (usually does not do this in a store thank goodness).
10-07-2009, 09:43 PM
I'll also chime in...
Besides just the sensory defensiveness, there can also be sensory modulation issues, which is what DS has. It primarily presented for us as having a kid who ran full speed into the couch, leaned hard on tables at school, seeked deep touch, and didn't really understand personal space (he gets in other kids space, but doesn't want anyone to be in his). He also shied away from hugging (other than from me). This caused terrible meltdowns at home and at school. Crying and tantrums lasting for an hour or more, for seemingly no reason.
Most of O's sensory issues stemmed from problems with his proprioceptive and vestibular systems.
He had private OT services earlier this year for about 6 months. He is a totally different kid now! Happy, able to be under control--as much as a 5 year old is--and making more friends.
To be honest, I was pretty skeptical of the whole idea, but I'm a convert now. It really, really made a difference for my kid.
10-08-2009, 07:39 AM
Well, treading gingerly here, sensory as a diagnosis is somewhat controversial.
There are definite sectors of the medical/intervention world who do not "believe in" SPD or SID as a diagnosis in and of itself. Not saying that the issues and behaviors are not real. But are they a "condition" that exists in isolation, or is it in conjunction with something else? I read a really good article about this recently and I cannot for the life of me find it right now.
Some of the things that make it controversial are complex.
Whether or not a child receives OT or other therapy, many times the issue resolves itself over time. There are virtually no controlled studies of this in the literature. There are also virtually no studies about the validity and effectiveness of many of the treatments.
Part of what makes it hard is that the treatments used generally ARE often effective at alleviating certain behaviors. So they can be beneficial from that perspective. But they are often things that would help all children be more calm and centered. Things like brushing, heavy blankets, spinning, trampolines, etc. are things that many children would find enjoyable and help to satidfy inner needs. There is even a school of thought that says many of the sensory disorders in young children are simply a manifestation of the fact that children no long work hard and aren't outside like they used to be. They used to do a lot of farm work, heavy labor and chores. Many/most children in this country no longer get that kid of intense physical outlet and some say when they don't get it, their bodies react in various ways because they don't get the calming stimuli.
There is also a concern among some professionals that children are being diagnosed with SPD/SID and a larger issue is being missed. Things like anxiety (including OCD), ADHD, autism spectrum disorders all often have sensory components. So a 4 year old diagnnosed with SPD may really have something else. The problem is these disorders are really hard to diagnose in young children.
I am not saying that sensory treatments do not work or that children do not benefit from them in many ways. However, it concerns *me* that many behaviors that are developmentally NORMAL are being pathologized. A 4 year old who cannot sit still or is bothered by his neighbor or loud noises or textures is often developmentally normal. There is a wide range of when children achieve self control (i.e., regulatory or executive function) and as a society I think we often have very unrealistic expecations. My MIL was a public school school teacher for 30 years and she says that she cannot believe the things that are not tolerated now that were considered just normal behaviors when she was a teacher.
The other concern with these other disorders potentially being missed is that OT often treats the symptoms, but if there is an underlying issue, then that may be missed because 1) many/most OTs are not trained to diagnose these other issues and 2) by treating the underlying issues (anxiety, ADHD, etc.) that the sensory concerns would be managed.
And I will freely admit my bias, that Sarah was diagnosed with sensory issues at age 4, spent 18 months in OT that in retrospect I think were worthless, a waste of time and money, AND even worse made me miss her underlying anxiety issues.
So as a parent, it can be hard to know what to do. When a professional has diagnosed your kid with an issue and recommends a course of treatment, you feel pretty obligated to follow it. And when a teacher is saying to you that little Jane/Jack has a problem and it needs to be addressed, it is hard to push back and ask is what they are doing really outside the range of normal?
Anyway, just some random thoughts. I hope I have not offended anyone. I've been reading a great deal about anxiety lately and there is a whole subtext of literature on misdiagnosis and discussion of SPD is part of that literature. I always had a sense of unease about her sensory diagnosis and what I read helped to cement for *me* some of the concerns I had but was not able to articulate.
10-08-2009, 08:17 AM
I always had a sense of unease about her sensory diagnosis and what I read helped to cement for *me* some of the concerns I had but was not able to articulate.
I think this comment Beth made is key. We need to trust our mommy instincts. If you aren't convinced of the diagnosis, you need to keep asking questions and getting other opinions.
That said, less than a year of OT did wonders for my son's sensory issues.
10-08-2009, 09:37 AM
I totally agree with you--that is why I was so skeptical of the OT. I did quite a bit of reading before shelling out the cash for it. We also visited a child psychologist who observed O. We have a history of anxiety and ADHD in our family, so I kept asking everyone who worked with O if they thought he had ADHD. The answer was always NO. His temperment is generally more anxious, but not at a clinical level. The reason we finally tried the OT is that he was a bear to live with at home and just so unhappy with everything. It was mroe than what we saw with other kids his age. And while I believe that he would have matured through some of it, we were able to expedite the process and make everyone happier.
And, yes, I do think that we have unreasonable expectations for many kids now in terms of behavior. With schools being pushed for AYP, it's hard to wait for development to catch up with expectations. However, I also think that for many families (not parents reading on this board) expectations for appropriate behavior have been lowered. Many parents are so busy with their own lives now, there isn't time for appropriate modeling of behavior. And, many families just don't spend enough time with each other besides sitting in front of the tv.
Lastly--and this is my own soapbox and theory--I think that kids are so filled with junk food and additives these days that we can't possibly know the full effect of them on a child's system. The environment many children live in isn't condusive to healthy physical developement, which probably leads to poor concentration, attentiveness, and impulse control. This isn't to say my kids don't eat any junk food, or that we're 100% organic, but I do give quite a bit of thought into what I feed our kids.
I could go on....but I know I'm preaching to the choir!
We also visited a child pschologist. We did this before OT. The psychologist told us she observed a lot behaviors in DS that suggested SID--she apparently sees a number of children whose parents (like us) go to her due to behavior issues. She felt that DS's issues were more neurological and not mental. that being said, DS does get anxious when he is touched from behind by anyone. So far, and I say this knowing that I am watching very closely to make sure OT is the right thing for DS, we have seen huge strides in gross motor (jumping, skipping, climbing and starting to learn how to ride a bike). If I ever feel like OT is no longer working for DS, we probably won't continue, but for now I think this is what he needs.
10-08-2009, 10:03 AM
This may be the article Beth was trying to find...
I've followed the conversations (not just here, but in articles etc) somewhat casually, as Abby has either very sensitive hearing or a sensory issue with some noises. It's specific - vacuum cleaners and other mechanical noises are a problem; loud thunder and some other loud things aren't. If she's tired, she has a lower tolerance; if it's a new environment, same thing. As she's gotten older, they bother her less/she has better coping mechanisms - but she clearly still has an issue with noises.
What's interesting to me is that she is typically developing in all other areas. Because of that, and because none of it impedes her daily activities, we've handled it on our own. We've helped her acclimate to loud situations in various ways, let her find coping mechanisms that work, etc. But if she had other issues, I always wonder if we would have missed a diagnosis by focusing just on this, if that makes sense.
10-08-2009, 10:12 AM
Heather, I hope you were not offended. I do think that OT is very helpful for many children in managing behaviors and making them more comfortable. (I don't think it was so helpful for us, but that's us and our experience.)
What concerns me is the tendency to see things in isolation and when parents are not vigilant (as you are) for being on the lookout for things. Many children improve with OT. But for some children, behaviors get worse or do not improve and in those cases, the tendency seems to be to try more and different OT, when in fact, for those children, a different avenue of intervention would be more appropriate. Because the issue was not "sensory" at it's heart, it was another concern that also had a sensory component.
And some kids just need a longer time to mature. Or need a school situation that allows them more physical activity.
These are the concerns I have about seeing sensory as something to manage in and of itself. Not saying it applies to any one particular situation, just a general concern about the diagnosis of sensory disorders. And it did apply to us, so I am sensitive to it. :)
Totally not offended at all. We are really at the start of this journey. These are my experiences so far. I really do hope we are right and doing the right thing for DS. Only time will tell though.
On another note, I just found out that since our JCC camp is inclusionary, they have a sensory room (basically a room with a trampoline and a few other things ) that DS can use if he or the teachers feel he needs to during the day. The trampoline has been working for us at home (as has doing games that require fine motor skills right before bed).
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