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What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Learn about sensory processing disorder from Watch Me Grow founder Shirael Pollack in this Howcast video about child development.


Sensory processing disorder refers to a child, or anyone's ability to take in the senses around them. The sounds that you hear, the things that you see, the chair that you're sitting in, you're feeling it, and be able to process those things, and be able to create an effective motor output.

So, for example, for me to be able to sit here, I have to block everything out around me. The little quiet hushing of the AC that's going on behind me, and the lights that are flashing in my eyes and things that I'm seeing, and this hard chair, in order to sit here and tell you what I'm thinking and what I'm telling you.

Now this might seem simple, but it's really not for all children. Some children have a very difficult time doing it. For example, some kids may have a really hard time taking in the background noise. It might be too much for them. You might find that any kind of noise might be too much for them and they may cover their ears. And that might limit their ability to sit in a classroom and attend to the teacher, because that background noise is just too much for them. They may not be able to feel the input in their joints and sit at the chair. That might be too much for them too. The thing to remember is that we all have little sensory issues here and there. Like I don't like certain crunchy things because I don't like the way it feels.

Everyone has these little tiny things that they don't like. They may not like the label in there, in the back here. It might itch them. Everyone has little things. But when it becomes an issue that impacts a child's day to day living, that's a problem.

So if they're unable to sit and attend in the classroom, because they're unable to block out certain noises, or they're unable to get that input into their joints, they can't sit still in their chair because it doesn't feel good to them, that's a cause for concern.

Children with sensory processing disorder are either hypersensitive or hyposensitive to input. So some movement may be too much for them, or it might be too little for them. So some children may not want to sit in a swing because they don't want to feel any of that movement. Other kids might want to be in a swing all day long, and that's why you might see some kids running in circles, or running back and forth. They're constantly seeking that movement. That is another part of sensory processing disorder.

If you feel that your child is having any of these issues, discuss this with your pediatrician, as it may be a sign of a sensory processing disorder.

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