Sensory Needs 101 : What are Sensory Needs?
Sensory Needs 101

"The sense world is not static. It is complex and individual."

Sensory processing disorders are a common problem among children. They can cause hypersensitivity to certain sensations, such as sound, touch, and taste. A heightened sensitivity can lead to extreme reactions to certain things that would not bother other people.

For example hearing clocks tick, not tolerating clothes or a very restricted diet.

Here we will explore the basics of sensory processing issues / disorders which present themselves through different types of sensory processing disorders in children.

These can include auditory hypersensitivity, tactile hypersensitivity, and hyperreactivity to light or sound.

Some children might have a combination of these sensory issues or just one of them.

What are Sensory Processing Issues in Children?

Sensory processing issues are a common occurrence in children, and it is important to know the different types of sensory processing disorders that can arise.

A sensory processing issue is a neurological disorder that affects the way a person processes information from one or more of their senses. Sensory processing disorders can be a cause or a symptom of other health conditions, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

How to Identify a Child's Sensory Processing Disorder?

Identifying a child's sensory processing issues is certainly a process of testing and experimenting with different sensory stimulation and really monitoring behaviours over time.

Sensory processing is a difficult concept to grasp. For those of us who work with or have children, it's important to have some understanding of sensory issues and how they may impact learning and development.

Sensory processing disorders can cause problems in all different areas of life, but an individual's diagnosis will depend on the type of disorder they have.

One way to identify sensory processing disorders in children is through testing using specific sensory activities.

As an organization, Multi-Sensory World considers and has products which focus on seven sensory senses: Touch, Movement, Smell, Taste, Sight, Hearing and Balance.

What are examples of Sensory Processing Sensitivity?

With two sons who are autistic, we have experienced a wide range of sensory issues, which include:

  • The material of clothing, which often feels scratchy, itchy and irritating. Where even the soft touch of materials are too rough when it moves against their skin.
  • Often gag when eating food that has a different texture than expected
  • Where lights or sounds are too bright or loud
  • Seem clumsy or unsteady on their feet
  • React poorly to sudden movements, touches, loud noises or bright lights. Which can result in meltdowns due to Sensory overload.

The Effects of Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD)

Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), sometimes referred to as sensory integration dysfunction (SID), is a condition that causes difficulties in processing and responding to the senses.

SPD’s are a spectrum of neurological conditions that result in a heightened or lowered sensitivity to sight, taste, touch, hearing and smell.

These senses can be either over-sensitive or under-sensitive and it can lead to difficulties with everyday activities.

How do Sensory Needs Impact Child / Toddler Development?

Sensory needs is a broad term that encompasses many different child developmental conditions, which include various physical, social, and developmental challenges.

These sensory needs impact development in many ways and can lead to delays in speech, language, motor-skills, self-help skills, and adaptive skills. They can also lead to anxiety or depression. Which is why we want more and more people to see how important Sensory needs and services really are.

Sensory stimulation is important for all children as it can affect a child's development and ability to learn, if they are not met.

A focus on sensory needs is especially important for children who have autism, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), down syndrome, cerebral palsy and many more.

Over-Stimulation or Under-Stimulation? Which hypersensitivity are we dealing with?

We often think of sensory issues as either over-stimulation or under-stimulation, but the truth is that the sensory world is much more complex than this. It is also about how each individual processes sensory information which depends on a lot of factors like the person’s stress levels that day/ hour.

The sense world is not static. It is complex and individual. Just because one person can't stand the feel of a particular fabric doesn't mean that anyone else will have the same reaction to it. Equally, just because someone likes the feeling of sandpaper on their skin doesn't mean they will like playing with silk. Everyone is individual.

Sensory processing disorders can change the way people see, hear, smell, taste and touch the world around them. For example, a child can become over-stimulated when they are in a new environment with a lot of stimulation causing a sensory overload.

However their reaction can also be just as diverse - from displaying high levels of frustration and anxiety - to becoming quiet, non-communicative, introverted and shy and some children have even learnt to mask the feelings more.

Can sensory toys help with hypersensitivity and sensory processing issues?

Simply put, in our experience, the answer is absolutely YES!

You can call them sensory toys, sensory tools or sensory aids - we are not stuck on the terminology, we are interested in the results and children feeling more self regulated.

Toys can be a great way to help hypersensitive kids cope. Sensory toys can distract kids from their sensitivity, as well as provide sensory stimulation. While there are many types of toys that could be helpful, those that provide high-stimulation and low-stimulation may be some of the most beneficial for those with sensory processing disorder.

With some help, kids can use products and toys to improve their sensory processing. This is especially true of toys which offer visual, tactile and auditory input in a variety of ways.

Whilst there are many different toys on the market it's important to take into account the child's age and their sensory sensitivity as you experiment with different products and if possible get the child involved.

If they are not onboard with a Chew necklace don’t force it and give them some control in a world where they already feel very out of control by stimulating other senses.

Our Family Sensory Toy Company Mission

Multi-Sensory World is committed to providing products, equipment and activities that encourage development through the stimulation of senses.

Multi-Sensory World offers imaginative and fun inspiring sensory ideas for all ages and abilities.

You can find the best variety of toys to keep your child active, including the latest fidget toys, sensory aids, products for fine and gross motor skills, well-being kits and growing trend toys for kids of all ages so you can find something that is perfect for your sensory seeker or avoider.

A Personal Note to Parents / Carers

As a parent with two sons who have a massive range of sensory issues - I wanted to close this blog with a more personal note to recognise that whilst we spend the majority of our time thinking of ways to create sensory activities for our sensory seekers and avoiders, we should also not forget about our own needs.

Parenting is challenging enough, however, when children have additional needs, it can be more overwhelming.

With the right support and tools it doesn't have to be as difficult as many parents think. It is key to take advantage of any services or programs that may help; and we hope that this sensory resource blog and the products that we sell can contribute towards that.

Over the next year we will be building out this resource page with ideas, products, information and news which we hope you will find useful. Additionally, we are seeking to address your questions directly and turn them into resources which can benefit our growing community.

If you have questions or topics you would like to see featured on our website and social media, please direct them to clare@multi-sensoryworld.co.uk and we will work towards curating a knowledge base for us all.

If you are asking the question, I can guarantee other parents and carers are out there also asking the same question - there is no question that is silly or that I haven't usually heard before. Please reach out!

 

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