SENSORY PROCESSING ISSUES IN CHILDREN WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
What are sensory processing issues?
Our environment whether it’s our home, school, play-ground, garden or any other place, is full of sensory rich inputs. We, unconsciously, interact with these coming sensory inputs really well through our senses. This maintains a balance at the level of Central Nervous System which promotes a typical growth. But when there are difficulties managing information that comes in through the senses like ,not able to bear loud music, distracted with a texture or tag on the back of shirt, difficulty in having haircut, avoiding certain type of food . These issues, sometimes called SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER
or SENSORY INTEGRATION DISORDER
, can have a big impact on learning and on everyday life.
1. Sensory Modulation disorder (SMD)
2. Sensory Based Motor Disorder (SBMD)
3. Sensory Discrimination Disorder (SDD)
Sensory Processing Issues in Children with ASD usually falls under the domain of Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD). Now, it is important to understand that the SMD can be in three variations i.e.
The children under this category seem to avoid many sensory experiences as they have a tendency to perceive environmental input multiply stronger than a normal tendency. They might present with –
- Extra cautiousness or difficulty to bear any kind of touch (soft/hard or superficial/deep) and this response is known as Tactile Defensiveness (TD). They have an exaggerated response to a touch which may seem normal to others. A soft superficial touch can be really painful to them. These children avoid standing in a line or going in a crowd. They may also have specific choices about clothing based on their tolerance to a fabric and most children prefer to wear loose clothes instead of fitted ones.
- Less or more fearful of the moving from on one place to another or participating in play with peers and this response is known as Gravitational Insecurity (GI). These children might find it difficult to get up on swings, joy rides or walking/running too fast. They like to keep their feet in touch with ground while walking, jumping or sitting on chair/swing etc. These children have gross motor areas affected due to fear of movement and not because of functional limitation.
- Highly selective in terms of food textures and are known as Picky Eater. These children avoid eating various textures of food like too much crunchy or hard or chewy as the sensation might be overwhelming for them. The mothers find it a very hard time to feed their children because the over responsiveness to certain food textures results in Gag- Reflex also.
- Over responsiveness to the input coming from one, two or more sensory systems like vision or smell.
The children under this category seem to avoid many sensory experiences as they have a tendency to register the environmental input less than a normal amount. These children may experience the sensory stimulus in a less or very less effective manner. These children might –
- Appears to be lost in their own world even after verbal prompts provided to them. They have less of the feeling of being competitive in class or play ground or with siblings.
- Require a lot of sensory input to stimulate themselves in comparison to any other typical child.
- They lack interest in outdoor based activities and prefer seated games/play. They find it difficult to complete or continue the task if the difficulty level is raised to some other level.
- Have shallow response (verbal or/and motor) to the given activity/task.
The children falling in this category are the one who has a craving for any type of sensory input. These children unlike Under-Responsive and Over-Responsive one are always on-the-go but not able to satiate their hunger for sensory inputs. In order to do the body movement or sensory seeking pattern, they might disorganize their Central Nervous System by overloading it with wrong combination of inputs. These children present with-
- Excessively touching objects/walls/textures or even persons present around them.
- Extreme body movements, banging against wall or objects neglecting self-safety or endangering themselves into self-injurious behavior.
- Eating solid or crunchy food and switching quickly from one food item to other. They might prefer various crispy textured food over soft textured food in order to fulfill their sensory demands.
- These children might try many activities in response to their sensory craving needs but are rarely successful to develop that in a skill. Instead their actions results into a more disorganized state of their Central Nervous System.
The Sensory Modulation System explains about the behavioral concerns that the parents, class teacher, peers, family, counselor and therapist encounters while dealing with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The child has absolutely no clear idea of his uncontrolled actions and how can s/he have, when it’s a demand of the child’s Central Nervous System which is controlling his actions.