Developmental Issues: Sensory Integration Week on BabyShrink

I’m devoting a great deal of time, space and energy on BabyShrink this week to sensory issues in your child’s development. It’s a topic that effects many families around the world, and I think this week you’ll find some great tips to try out with your own kids (and maybe even yourselves). Young children are a work in progress, neurologically. New connections are made every day, connecting the body and bodily sensations with the brain. Sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, the vestibular sense (the sensation of the body’s position in space) -- all of these sensations are bombarding your child’s brain with new information. How can the brain sort it all out? How can the brain “filter in” and “filter out” certain information? For instance, in a noisy room, how can your child pick out YOUR voice, when he’s hearing several? It’s a complicated neurological process that develops slowly, throughout childhood.

Children differ in how they process sensory information. They can be over- or under-sensitive in any (or several) of the senses. This can be overwhelming for the child and result in frustration and behavioral problems.

Our Children, Ourselves I don’t know about you, but I certainly have my own sensory preferences. If there’s a lot of background noise, I find myself extra-tired at the end of the day. Conversely, my husband likes background noise and is calmed by having the TV on while we sleep. (I hate it!) These are normal variations in temperament and biological constitution. We all have our preferences. If we understand those preferences in our children, and ourselves, we can work with them better and have more comfortable lives.

Some children have sensory differences that are stronger than usual. Occupational therapists, specially trained in pediatrics and sensory issues, can be extremely helpful with detecting what those differences are and what to do about them.

Questioning the Legitimacy of Sensory Integration There is some controversy over whether sensory integration issues are “legitimate”, from a medical standpoint. Many pediatricians will dismiss the topic as unfounded or irrelevant. Studies are ongoing as to the efficacy of treatment approaches. But while these studies continue, many parents are finding these approaches extremely helpful. In my practice, I have seen exceptional progress made in cases with sensory issues, and I work closely with OTs who provide invaluable assistance to families. I do often recommend that an OT conduct an evaluation of a child with behavioral difficulties.

An Important Topic for BabyShrink Readers Many of BabyShrink’s regular readers work with OTs and find the exercises extremely helpful for their kids. I have learned a great deal about myself and my family’s sensory preferences, and I have modified things in our everyday lives to maximize what I have learned. It works for us! (But of course, your child’s pediatrician should be involved and consulted at every stage of the process.)

It should be an interesting week on BabyShrink. As always, your participation in the discussion is welcome.