Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder
Defining it and looking at alternate therapy
My son Jacob has many talents. Being on the autism spectrum presents unique brain wiring that requires more guidance and fine-tuning of his abilities. A gift he has is his athletic ability. A challenge he has is sensory processing disorder. When you pair a child that is physically active and a brain wired to seek out constant physical input, you get a little boy that is constantly moving who needs an outlet for his energy.
What Is Sensory Processing Disorder
Just like cars in a traffic jam, sensory processing disorder is an information jam in a person’s nervous system that blocks the brain from properly signaling a response to particular senses. According to Carol Stock Kranowitz, author of “The Out-of-Sync Child,” there are three different ways an individual can display sensory discrimination:
- Sensory over-responsivity.
- Poor sensory discrimination.
- Sensory craving.
Jacob is a sensory craver. From a very young age, he wanted to chew on anything and everything. With guidance from occupational therapists and work with sensory integration, we quickly learned that when he has a sensory craving, it is best to have something that he can safely chew. We invested in chewy tubes and, as he got older, gum was an easy transition.
As he got older, chewing turned into crashing and climbing on furniture. His athletic abilities and lack of fear combine to make him quite the daredevil. We have nicknamed him the furniture destroyer.
As Jacob grows, we realize it’s important for him to have activities that he can safely do that also meet his sensory needs. Swimming and taekwondo have been the best investments outside of a therapeutic setting. In the water, he is a fish. The deep pressure of the water seems to give him a sense of calm that he loves. When I signed up to do baby swimming classes with him, he was only 3 months old. I had no idea how impactful it be for him longterm. After swim classes, Jacob always sleeps well and seems most at ease.
Taekwondo provides him the ability to move. It has proven to be an excellent way to keep him physically fit and meet his sensory needs, and he was awarded most physically fit at the taekwondo studio where he takes classes.
If you have a child who has sensory needs, explore various activities and tools to help unravel the nervous system information jam. It’s good for them, as well as good for you.
Bea Moise is a Charlotte-based, board-certified cognitive specialist, parenting coach and founder of the company A Child Like Mine that educates parents of children with unique learning needs on tools to achieve success at home. She has two children, Jacob and Abigail.