By: Dr. Emil Tompkins, A Tucson Chiropractor with a passion for children’s health and wellness.
In our office, we see lots of kids with ADHD, Autism, and other neurological difficulties. One area that we must address is the sensory processing of these children. Sometimes, allowing your child to process sensations the normal way is the first step towards true healing. So the first step is just understanding just what is sensory processing disorder.
Sensory processing disorder is difficulty detecting, organizing, or responding to sensory information received and interpreted in the brain. This includes the basic five senses (auditory, visual, touch, smell, taste) as well as two others, the vestibular andproprioceptive senses. We ALL have sensory processing differences; it can only be considered SPD when it causes significant difficulties in daily life, development, behavior, and social interactions. Sensory processing disorder is also sometimes called sensory integrative dysfunction, the terms can be used interchangeably.
The three most common sensory systems affected with sensory processing disorder arevestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile. These three are also referred to the power sensations and will be the primary focus of sensory based intervention as well as with a successful sensory home program.
The tactile system involves the entire skin network including in the mouth, where tactile nerve endings are present in the cheek linings. Tactile input includes light touch, firm touch, and the discrimination of different textures including dry to wet and messy. The tactile system is also responsible for the processing of pain and temperature. Tactile input can be alerting, calming, or over-stimulating, depending on the person.
Proprioception is often referred to as “heavy/hard work” in the therapy world. Proprioceptive receptors are located in the joints, muscles, and tendons ALL OVER the body, including the jaw and vertebrae. These receptors are activated by elongation, compression, or traction. Therefore, during heavy/hard work activities the core of the body and extremities recruit a large number of muscles. When the muscle bellies contract, the proprioceptors of the joints are triggered. Weight bearing on joints also triggers the proprioceptive receptors. The interoceptors are also a part of the proprioceptive system. They are located within the gut and internal organs. The interoceptors are responsible for the feeling of hunger or lack of hunger as well as the need to go to the restroom, and other internal organ sensations.
When you think vestibular…think movement. The vestibules are located in the inner ear and detect motion. There are 3 canals which detect all different planes of movement. Movement is crucial to development, not only perhaps the more obvious which is gross motor development and posture, but it also plays a role in visual development, auditory processing, and overall self-regulation of the nervous system. Vestibular input is extremely powerful and can be alerting or calming to the nervous system. Vestibular development begins way before a baby is born and while in utero the vestibular system is activated. Fifteen minutes of vestibular input can have a 6-8 hour positive (or negative) effect on the brain, depending on the person.
Sensory differences and sensory processing disorder can present in different ways, and no two sensory kiddos are alike. A child may be a sensory avoider and over-register sensory information coming into the brain from one or more of the sensory systems. On the other hand, a child may be a sensory seeker, and under-register sensory information coming into the brain. A child may also present with a combination of the two types, in different sensory systems.
The other most common presentation of sensory difficulties manifests due to sensory modulation difficulties. The child will fluctuate from “ready state” to ”not ready” in the blink of an eye. “Not ready” may present as a meltdown, sensory overload, extreme fatigue, or over the top excitability along with many other presentations.
If you like this blog post, please leave a comment below and tell me what you think of it. Also, I’m always open to ideas of any health topic that you’d be interested in so if you want to hear more about living pain free, wellness care for the family, fitness, etc, please comment below and I’ll send out more articles in those areas.
If you’d like to connect with Dr. Tompkins and Tompkins Family Chiropractic, Like Us on facebook, follow us on Twitter, or subscribe to our email newsletter where you will be automatically connected with the latest news and important health updates.