When Children Are Diagnosed With a Sensory Disorder

Tabetha Marsh dreaded going to the grocery store with her 3-year-old son, Brody. With all the noise and bright lights, he would have meltdowns.

“He would literally bite me throughout the grocery store. It was really hard,” says Ms. Marsh, who lives in Hebron, Ky.

Ms. Marsh took Brody, now 6, to an occupational therapist who determined he had a sensory-processing disorder, or SPD, a condition in which the body and brain have difficulty processing and responding to sensory stimuli in the environment. Some people with SPD are hypersensitive to loud noises or different textured foods, for instance; others may be agitated by the touch of a clothing tag. Still other children with SPD may show hardly any response to external stimuli.

SPD is believed to affect 5% to 16% of children in the U.S., various studies have found.

Brody Marsh, who has a sensory-processing condition, works with occupational therapist Beth Johnson at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The exercises give his joints deep-pressure input to compensate for under-responsiveness in the proprioceptive system, causing difficulties with body positioning. Here, the 6-year-old is being squished in a crash mat.

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