Most of us would believe that school aged children had enough time to adjust to the world around them. However, children continue to work at mastering their nervous systems into their early adolescence and beyond.
Social environments can be cruel to children with sensory processing challenges. A child who either misses cues thereby appearing not to be paying attention can be teased or labeled a poor learner. A seven or eight year-old who cannot sit still may be considered disruptive by teachers and referred for prescription medications. A boy who finds the lighting or sounds in the classroom overstimulating may not be able to cope and may exhibit behavioural problems. A girl who finds touch overwhelming may retaliate aggressively against a classmate (who touched her) for no apparent reason.
Parents and teachers alike often have difficulty understanding childhood behaviours. As adults, we rarely find our sensory environment overstimulating or challenging. If the light was experienced as too bright we would wear sunglasses or withdraw to a shady location. If the noise was too loud we would seek out ear plugs or withdraw to a quieter spot. Young children are often unable to communicate their difficulties and seldom are capable of solving their own problems.
Occupational therapists are trained at administering assessments for sensory profiling to determine whether a child may be processing under or over threshold compared to other children her age. Occupational therapists assist the child, parents, and teachers with interventions to manage the challenges associated with poor sensory integration. Only when the child's behaviour is fully understood can we best assist her to thrive.
Providing your way to a better quality of life!
David Chochinov, O.T. Reg.(MB)
Proactive Rehabilitation Manitoba