For the average child, all senses develop and work together; touch, sight, sound, taste, and body movement. The proper interaction of the above senses enables us to function and feel comfortable. For 12-17% of children, the senses do not interact efficiently. These children may have something called sensory integration disorder (DSI).
School personnel and therapist have noticed that the number of children with sensory integration difficulties seems to be increasing. It may be that we are just better at recognizing the symptoms. Occupational therapists, however, are beginning to express concern about the experiences young children are having. Young children need very much to run, roll around on the floor and move in circles. The rough-housing that you may love to do with your child is good for him or her. Many of the play ground equipment that gives young children good sensory experiences have been removed due to lawsuits. Children need to spin around, bounce on trampolines and climb on play equipment. Experiencing the world by watching television or a movie is not the same as having the experience. Children need both the physical input of the experience and the social input of reaction from and interaction with others. Some therapist even believe that the over use of television may contribute to sensory integration difficulties because of the deprivation of the physical experiences.
A child with sensory integration dysfunction may have trouble paying attention to the task at hand. She may have trouble recognizing where her body is in space and may appear clumsy. Below is a list of common characteristics of a child with sensory integration difficulties:
** Over or under sensitive to sound.
** Overly sensitive or under sensitive to lights.
** Under-reactive to sensory stimulation: ie, child craves spinning, jumping, moving constantly -or- has difficulty with most movement stimuli.
** Unusually high or low activity level; may seem hyperactive or hypoactive.
** Coordination problems; may seem clumsy or careless.
** Delays in speech, language, motor skills.
** Poor organization of behavior (impulsive, distractible, frustrated, aggressive)
** May seem lazy, bored, or unmotivated:
** Difficulty making transitions. Child has difficulty with routine changes, difficulties with season changes (i.e., going from shorts to pants and visa versa)
** Social and/or emotional problems. i.e. acts out, has frequent temper tantrums, or seems oppositional and defiant.
While the actual disorder would be diagnosed by medical personnel with input from an occupational therapist, many children respond well to interventions for a child with sensory integration dysfunction. Children's brains are best engaged when mental activities are combined with physical activities. There are lots of activities that will help children meet their need for sensory input which in turn helps their brains organize the sensory input. Some of these include:
** swinging on a swing or in a hammock
** jumping on a SAFE trampoline (one with a handrail that is always held or a
net around the trampoline)
** jumping on a pogo stick-even better: (check out the swinging pogo stick in
Ms. Robin's preschool classroom)
** spinning around in the grass
** Chewing gum or sucking on peppermint candy
** Running, hopping, skipping, jumping
** sitting in a bean bag chair
** having a relaxing back massage from Mom or Dad
If you have concerns that your young child may have a problem with sensory integration dysfunction, you may want to speak to your child's teacher or guidance counselor. Berea Independent Schools does have an Occupational Therapist available if you need further information. You may also want to call the Exceptional Children's office at 986-3249 for further information.