How Sensory Toys Could Benefit Children with Processing Disorders

Sensory processing disorders occur when the brain has difficulty receiving and responding appropriately to information it receives. For instance, they might have problems with touch, spatial awareness, vision, or how they interpret things that they hear. Children with sensory processing disorders often have autism or another disability too, but sometimes it can occur in healthy children. A sensory processing disorder isn’t an actual medical diagnosis and is not widely known. Children with sensory issues can be mistakenly labeled with behavioral problems when in fact the problem is physical and comes from the brain and nervous system.

Some of the different types of sensory processing disorder are:

Tactile Defensiveness – This is when the child is extremely sensitive to touch and to the ways fabrics or other items feel on the skin. They may refuse to wear certain clothing, like nylons or stiff collars or they could hate the way sand or mud feels under their feet. This is due to the brain misinterpreting the sensation. The skin may feel pain when touched and this is one reason why children with the disorder recoil from kissing and hugging.

 

Visual Perceptual Processing Disorder – This is a fault in how the brain interprets what the eyes see. The child may have difficulty distinguishing colors, similarly shaped letters (like b and d), may be confused and they could struggle to write within lines on a page. They could also have limited spatial awareness and judge incorrectly the space they occupy in a room so they appear uncoordinated and may bump into walls and tread on people’s toes.

 

Oral Defensiveness – Oral defensiveness is altered sensitivity to taste. Children affected by this may not be able to bear certain types of food and become extremely picky eaters, but it can go further than being fussy – it is a medical condition. There may be a lack of sensation, causing children to cram food into their mouths because they can’t feel what they’re doing. Other children have a hypersensitive mouth and find eating uncomfortable. Some crave particular flavors or textures from food and so they can’t help binge eating.

Hyperacusis – This is an extreme hypersensitivity to sound. The child’s tolerance to sound collapses and any noise no matter how small becomes painful.

 

How Play Therapy Can Help

Treatment for sensory processing disorders is typically provided by Occupational Therapists and play centers. An occupational therapist will visit the child in their home or school and help de-sensitize them from the senses they find troublesome. If they have difficulty interpreting space they may be invited to participate in games that require balance and strengthen coordination, such as the use of a therapy ball. (See Rib-it-Ball)

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