Sensory processing disorder (II) By Dr. Badewa Adejugbe-Williams

A hyperesoponsive child’s brain registers sensations caused by stimuli intensely, that is, they are oversensitive to stimuli.'

These children are also referred to as “Sensory Avoiders” as they tend to have flee or fight response to stimuli.

For example, a child may be pained by the slightest touch, so the child would scream or pull away from touch.

They may be irritated by a particular texture or smell and would therefore avoid such.

A pin drop could sound like thunder, so, they would cover their ears.

Their eyesight could be so acute that that they could count every strand of hair on a person’s head or pore on a person’s face.
So, these children would avoid lights.

A slight stimuli such as touch, sound or light may have adverse effect on the child and cause the child undue pain which could cause the child to have a meltdown, which could be seen as misbehaving.

They could be overly aggressive, hit or bite, or be passive to avoid activities that are terrifying to them.

The main irregularities that occur in people with SPD based on affected senses are:

Auditory: hearing

  • Sensitive to noise volumes
  • Sensitive to certain noises such as a vacuum cleaner
  • Finds it difficult to work when noises are present
  • Covers ears when noises are present

Noisemaking Visual: sight

  • Sensitive to lighting
  • Sensitive to visual overload
  • May seek more visual pictures
  • Covering/closing eyes
  • Poor eye contact
  • Has difficulty following objects with eyes only, tends to turn head to look at things Gustatory: taste
  • A picky eater
  • Picky about food texture

May seek oral sensation by licking Olfactory: smell

  • Sensitive to smells
  • Easily notices smells
  • Holds nose
  • Purposely sniffs objects

Tactile: touch

  • Sensitive to things touching them, such as a tag on a shirt
  • May seek sensation by pinching or biting one self
  • Touches everything • Constantly puts things in their mouth
  • May not be able to differentiate temperature
  • Doesn’t understand painful injuries Vestibular: tells the relation of the body to the ground, what speed we are moving and in what direction
  • Hypoactive or underactive
  • Craves movement
  • Enjoys swinging, rocking, and spinning
  • Wants to constantly move
  • Wiggles in their seat Proprioceptive: the awareness of one’s body parts in relation to one another and how they are moving
  • Poor fine/gross motor skills
  • Poor motor planning skills
  • Are clumsy/ walk into things 
  • Have difficulty balancing Intervention Several research studies have addressed various methods to alter the maladaptive behaviors of persons with sensory processing challenges.

These include prescription medications (which do not cure SPD), vitamins and minerals, diets, psychotherapy, auditory integration therapy, visual integration therapy, sensory integration techniques, cognitive therapy, animal therapy and more.
Some have been labelled as bogus and said to give g false hopes (Hyatt, Stephenson, and Carter, 2009) even though some people might have reported positive effects from some of the bogus claims.

A school of thought amongst parents has been, ‘if it works for one, it may just work for my child’.

Prescription drugs do not cure.

They either mask or suppress symptoms (Rimland, 1993).

Rimland indicated that vitamins, especially B6 as it is essential for brain functions, and Magnesium are common choices.

Parents are advised to eliminate processed sugar, processed and packaged foods that contain phosphates and other additives from children’s diets.

They are further advised to feed their children foods that have been organically grown and unmodified.

Sensory Integration Therapy (SIT), the therapeutic approach popularized by Ayres in the early 1970s, according to Shuman (1996) has been found to help comatose patients with remarkable results.

SIT helps to bring affected person up to experience skipped developmental milestones, which in turn helps the brain to organize itself.

A child with SPD would need Sensory Integration Therapy by a trained Occupational Therapist (OT) who would provide appropriate sensory input to assist the child in tempering information correctly and in developing strategies to compensate for SPD limitations.

SIT that involves all senses is used to help a child maximize daily functioning skills, cognitive development, appropriate social skills and improved social emotional state.

The OT would need to check if the child is hyporesponsive, hyperesponsive or both in reactions or non-reactions to stimuli.

The OT would give parents a questionnaire to determine which area(s) the child falls into.

A lot of children with sensory disorders have both (hypo and hyper) depending on the stimuli.

Resultantly, the OT would give appropriate recommendations/ interventions based on parent’s responses on given questionnaire.

Dr. Badewa T. Adejugbe-Williams (Ed.D), is an Educational Therapist and Founder of the Royal School of Educational Therapy Foundation in Abuja, FCT