Experiencing Sensory Overload? Occupational Therapy Can Help!

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a neurological disorder that gives abnormal responses to sensory information that the individual perceives. Treatment for SPD typically includes Occupational Therapy, introduction of a sensory diet, and sensory integration challenges that retrain the brain to respond differently to stimulation from the senses.

SPD affects everyone differently; it may affect one sense or several senses simultaneously. You may be familiar with the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, but humans actually have eight sensory systems:

  • Visual (Sight)
  • Tactile (Touch)
  • Olfactory (Smell)
  • Auditory (Sound)
  • Vestibular (Body Movements)
  • Proprioception (Body Awareness)
  • Interoception (Internal Body Awareness)

Someone experiencing SPD may:

  • Be sensitive to texture and fit, resulting in avoidance of some types of clothing (e.g., ties, turtlenecks, pantyhose)
  • Become irritated with light or unexpected touch
  • Find it difficult to balance and dislike walking on uneven surfaces
  • Dislike or become disoriented in elevators or on escalators
  • Be clumsy or awkward with motor activities
  • Find it difficult to follow directions for community navigation
  • Find it difficult to discriminate visual and auditory cues, impacting social interactions and role performance
  • Find it difficult to understand body awareness, which can affect body boundaries and body image

The idea behind sensory integration therapy is that specific movement activities, resistive body work, and even brushing of the skin can help a child with sensory problems experience an optimal level of arousal and regulation. This, according to some Occupational Therapists, can actually “rewire” the brain so that kids can appropriately integrate and respond to sensory input, allowing them to both make sense of and feel safer in the world.

Some sensory integration therapy activities may include:

  • Sensory Diet Programs involving a daily routine with a menu of individualized, supportive sensory strategies (e.g., rocking chair, quiet space, aromatherapy, weighted blanket), identified physical activities (e.g., yoga, swimming), and materials (e.g., sensory kits containing music, stress balls, items for distraction)
  • Environmental Modifications and Adaptations such as lighting, use of white noise machines, wall murals, and other types of furnishings and equipment to increase or decrease the sensory stimulation a space provides
  • Accommodations and Adaptations such as wearing ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones or using a loofah sponge when showering to manage hyper sensitivities and improve attention, self-regulation, or organizational difficulties

To get help for you or a child dealing with sensory issues, contact the Vereen Center today.