Are Sensory Issues Part Of Another Condition
Many doctors dont believe sensory issues are their own disorder. But what is clear is that some people do have issues processing what they feel, see, smell, taste, or hear.
In most cases, sensory issues occur in children. Many of these children are on the autism spectrum. Adults on the spectrum can experience sensory issues, too.
Other conditions or disorders connected to sensory issues include:
Developmental delays are also not uncommon in people with sensory issues.
Its important to note, however, that children with ADHD experience hyperactivity for a very different reason than children who have sensory issues.
People who have ADHD may have trouble concentrating or sitting still. People with sensory issues may struggle to sit still because they crave sensory interactions with the world around them, or are bothered by their environment.
Getting Help For Sensory Sensitivities
Occupational therapists can assess your child’s sensory sensitivities and develop a plan for managing them. They can also help you come up with appropriate strategies if your child self-stimulates or stims.
If you think some sensory issues are happening because your child isnt seeing properly, you could get your childs vision checked by an optometrist. This will help rule out any visual problems.
If your child ignores sounds and people speaking, you could get your childs hearing checked by an audiologist. This will help you rule out any hearing problems.
If your childs behaviour hurts themselves or other people, its best to get professional advice. An experienced professional can help you understand and manage your childs behaviour. A good first step is talking with your paediatrician or psychologist.
The Types Of A Sensory Processing Disorder In Three Categories:
1. Sensory Modulation.
Sensory modulation means how we organize sensory information. Three common patterns are hyposensitive, hypersensitive, and sensory seeking. They all fall under this sub-type.
There are also sensory disorders in movement or sensory-motor disorders. A sensory-motor disorder means difficulties in posture and movement. Sometimes words like dyspraxia or development coordination disorder are also used to describe those sensory-motor or movement disorders. Posture means how you sit, stand, or move against gravity. A sensory-motor disorder means difficulties in movement or moving. Your child might appear clumsy or have difficulty with coordination if they have a sensory-motor disorder.
3. Sensory Discrimination.
There is another sub-type called sensory discrimination. Sensory discrimination means telling the difference between variations in a single sense. For example, some children have difficulty hearing the difference between the words bat and cat even when they do not have hearing loss. Their brains simply cannot distinguish between the two words. That is an indication of a type of auditory sensory discrimination disorder. With sensory discrimination disorder, there can be difficulty in perception in each of the senses. It is helpful to know that wearing glasses, using a hearing aid or using a wheelchair are not signs of a sensory disorder.
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Sensory Overload In Autism
Sensory overload involves more than just sounds. It can be any environmental stimulus that interferes with the stability of the environment. In some cases, the individual can be so sensitive as to react adversely to sensations you might not even notice.
Distinguishing Sensitivity From Disorder
It isn’t always easy to distinguish hypersensitivity from actual disorders, but knowing how to recognize some signs may help you see the difference. Highly sensitive children often react to certain stimuli such as:
Encountering a trigger will make them uncomfortable. They may even act out in unhealthy ways that make hypersensitivity look similar to some disorders.
When the child’s trigger is not present, though, he or she will seem normal. Disorders usually express themselves consistently. They are often daily barriers that make normal life extremely difficult. Hypersensitivity, although a life-changing experience, is not as disruptive.
You may also distinguish hypersensitivity from an actual disorder by how the child responds to treatment. Hypersensitive people can often manage the condition by:
- Choosing situations that don’t include triggers
- Taking a pause to reflect on stressful situations
- Using headphones to block out troublesome sounds
- Knowing their limits
- Meditating or praying regularly
- Getting enough sleep, or even taking a nap before a stimulating situation
If these simple techniques work, the child almost certainly has a hypersensitivity instead of a disorder. In addition, Sensory Processing Disorders may also include issues balance, motor control, or body-spatial awareness.
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Sensitivity Differences In Autism Sensory Overload
Sensory Overload in people with autism means that their views are very sharp. For example, they pay attention to the fluffy pieces on the carpet or complain about airborne dust, they do not like bright lights, and they may even be afraid of extreme light flashes. Children with sensory overload can even notice the vibrations of light under fluorescent lights and the whole room vibrates for them. People with hyper-hearing often sleep very lightly, fear sudden unpredictable sounds , they can even be horrified by the storm, crowd, and a haircut. They usually close their ears when noise is painful for them, but others in the room may not be aware of any disturbing noise. Sometimes, children with sensory overload make repetitive noises to block other disturbing noises.
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Causes And Risk Factors
There is no singular cause of hyperesthesia. Many external stimuli are linked to the condition, and its also related to a number of other conditions.
Drinking too much coffee or alcohol can temporarily cause hyperesthesia by overstimulating the nervous system. Some experts believe this is due to the stimulation of the cerebrum and cortex region of the spinal cord. This causes increased sensitivity for a short time.
People who are experiencing skin rashes or shingles may also have tactile sensitivity. This is usually caused by a viral infection and will resolve in a few days on its own.
When the nerves are partially or completely impaired, this can also cause increased sensory stimulation. Damage to the nerves can occur through compression or injury.
People with a vitamin B-12 deficiency can also develop hyperesthesia.
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Sensory Abnormalities And Autistic Traits
The ASSQ was able to differentiate children with and without SAs in the total epidemiological child sample as well as in the non-ASD sample. This indicates that SAs have a strong impact on the behavior of a child. It is important to recognize that this is not merely an ASD-related issue, but SAs can interfere a childs everyday life and social functioning also in the general population, and these children need help in regulating their sensory environment. According to Hazen et al. , sensory over-responsivity is the most often cited sensory correlate to increased anxiety in both general and ASD populations.
Auditory hypersensitivity manifests by a discomfort or painful response to noises, for example certain types of noisy environments . It is most acute if the noise level is high or if there are many different sources of noise, for example in restaurants . In school settings, the school cafeteria is an area where the different noises can cause problems for sensitive pupils. Noises there usually include human talk, sudden loud voices, noises from kitchen, unpleasant sounds from eating and biting, clinging of the cutlery, moving of seats and people walking around. Thus a situation that is supposed to be a relaxation between lessons can turn into a very stressful situation for a child with auditory hypersensitivity.
Treating Spd And Hypersensitivity
With just a few adjustments to a childs day-to-day life, you can help them better manage the symptoms of hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity. One is to simply raise awareness and improve your understanding of the symptoms, as well as anybody regularly in contact with your child.
Children can also adopt a sensory lifestyle. For example, headphones can be used to regulate noise levels and special lighting can help avoid overstimulation.
However, its best to treat the root cause. By releasing incorrectly retained reflexes, its possible to alleviate over-stimulation or under-stimulation and remove the blocks of incorrect development. Here is how it can be done:
- Stimulation therapy eye tracking, balance and sensory tasks
- Auditory processing train the inner ear muscle with neuro-acoustic training
- Sensory integration therapy comprising visual, auditory and somatosensory treatment
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A Sensory Processing Disorder Diagnosis
A sensory child does not mean the child has a disorder. For example, children learn through their senses. Moreover, a baby explores and learns from their senses differently from a toddler or a school-aged child.
Just like you, a child when tired, hungry, or thirsty is more sensitive.
Your child likely has different sensory preferences than you. For example, you might like a white noise machine to sleep. On the other hand, your child might need a blackout curtain and a silent house to sleep. Likewise, your child might love to hang upside down and go on roller coasters. In contrast, you might feel a little unsteady climbing a ladder. Ultimately, we all have different sensory preferences and your sensory preferences can change over time too.
However, if your childs senses seem to be interrupting your ability to get through the day as a family, there is a cause for concern. Especially if your childs sensory differences are interrupting your childs ability to learn or play regularly. This could occur at home, daycare, or school.
Therefore, if you see your child experiencing these challenges you may want to consider testing for a sensory processing disorder.
Treatment For Children With Autism
Occupational therapists have been in the forefront of sensory processing since one of their own, A. Jean Ayres Ph.D., began describing and theorizing about it some 50 years ago.20 In autism, a childs language and social delays may make it hard for him to identify and communicate which sounds, sights and sensations bother him. Sometimes it can take a little detective work on the therapist’s part to determine the cause of a child’s sensory behavior.
A therapist tries to help the child organize sensory information so he can respond appropriately and take part in everyday activities. In some clinics and schools, occupational therapists work with speech-language pathologists and behavior analysts to craft a multi-disciplinary treatment approach for a child with autism. They also train parents on steps to take at home to help their child participate fully in play, family, recreational and other activities.
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When Quirks Become Disorders
Those quirks and sensitivities do not become signs of a sensory processing disorder until they start having serious consequences in the child’s normal, daily life.
A child who cringes at the sound of a flushing toilet is certainly hypersensitive, but he or she probably does not have a sensory processing disorder unless there is a drastic response, such as making loud noises to cover the sound or dropping to the floor with hands pressed tightly against the ears.
Foundation And History Of Autism
For many, the simple term conjures a static image of Dustin Hoffmans character in Rain Man. This belies the complexity and variation of neurological disorders that fall within the category. Aspergers Syndrome is a single manifestation of the spectrum of disorders, which has also been mischaracterized as high-functioning autism in the past.
At the end of the 19th century, Dr. Langdon Down described individuals with what was characterized as mental retardation or developmental slowness. This proved to be an incorrect assessment. However, the term coined in 1911 was also incorrectly applied and would continue to be misused until the 1940s, when it was finally associated with behavioral and social difficulties.
However, the diagnosis based on an observed suite of behavioral characteristics alone was the cause of continued misapplication and an entrenched misunderstanding of what caused the disorders such as Aspergers. It was assumed as late as 1950 that autism was caused by cold or unloving parenting approaches by mothers, and was most likely to occur in the children of highly intellectual households. Of course, this was a sterling example of inherent bias and a complete misunderstanding of organic brain disorders.
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Sensory Processing Issues Signs And Symptoms
What you or your childs teacher might see depends on two things. The first is the trigger the sensory input thats overwhelming your child. The second is the type of sensory processing challenge your child has.
Kids who are sensory avoiding may react to a wide range of triggers. These can include loud sounds, uncomfortable clothing, crowded spaces, or certain food smells or textures, among others. Whatever the trigger, the reaction can sometimes be extreme.
Sensory overload can lead to sensory meltdowns. These are very different from tantrums because theyre out of the childs control.
Here are some other signs you might see in your child:
Is easily overwhelmed by people and places
Seeks out quiet spots in noisy, crowded environments
Is easily startled by sudden noises
Is bothered by bright light
Avoids touching people or hugging them
Has a strong reaction to the texture or smell of certain foods
Refuses to try new foods and has a very limited diet of preferred foods
Gets upset about small changes in routine or environment and avoids trying new things
Sensory information isnt limited to the traditional five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. Interoception is a lesser-known sense that helps you understand and feel whats going on in your body. Kids who have trouble with it may have a harder time with toilet training or have an unexpected threshold for pain.
Sensory Processing Disorder Vs Autism
You might be wondering if sensory processing disorder is the same as autism.
Sensory disorder and autism are different disorders however, they are linked. Nevertheless, people with autism often have sensory issues which can make it confusing.
Sometimes, especially for autism, we use different words. We may call things sensory sensitivities, sensory issues, sensory difficulties, sensory challenges, or sensory overload. Moreover, we often use them interchangeably. So, is sensory sensitivity a sign of autism? Yes, hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity are used to diagnose autism.
However, it is important to know that a sensory disorder alone is not an indication of autism. Therefore, a child with autism might have a sensory disorder as part of their diagnosis, but not every child who has autism will experience a sensory disorder. Likewise, a child with a sensory disorder alone does not have autism.
People with autism have symptoms like poor social and emotional skills, difficulties or delays in communication, restricted interests, and/or other criteria. Sensory problems can be part of the many difficulties that someone with autism has. Learn more about sensory and autism.
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Can You Hear Me Now
One research group administered a battery of tests to find out. They detected no difference in the hearing of children with and without autism at least in tests that did not require a behavioral response from the children.
However, things got trickier when they administered a test that required the children to indicate by their behavior that they heard a particular sound. In those tests, 41 percent of the children with ASD acted as though they didnt hear normally at least once.15 They repeated the tests, and got different results on some of the same children. This failure to respond normally and consistently to sound may be caused by a problem with attention, rather than with hearing or sensory processing, they and other scientists have theorized.15-17
That research group cautioned parents and teachers that children with autism may appear to have abnormal hearing on tests that require a behavioral response, even though their hearing is fine. They also said their findings may undercut some of the assumptions behind a “highly controversial treatment, auditory integration training ” that claims to treat the “auditory ‘difficulty'” of children with autism. That’s because children with autism may perform unreliably on behavioral hearing tests that might be given before and after AIT.15
But where does that leave people with autism who prefer treatments that have solid scientific proof behind them?
What’s Missing From These Asd Levels Of Support
As you have probably already realized, the three autism levels raise as many questions as they answer. For example:
- What type of support did the American Psychiatric Association have in mind when it developed these functional levels? An aide? A personal care assistant? A 1:1 school aide? A job coach? A college advisor?
- In which situations do people at various levels require support? Some people with autism do fine at home but need help in school . Other people with autism do well at school but need help in social and work settings.
- Some people with autism have received sufficient therapy to appear close to typical when interviewed by a single adult but have significant issues when interacting with peers. What type of support might they need?
- Do the levels of support refer back, in any way, to services provided?
- Anxiety is a very common trait among people with higher functioning autism, and this can cause extreme challenges in typical settings. If a person is bright, verbal, and academically capablebut anxious and depressed, and thus in need of significant support in order to function in a job or schoolwhere does he fit into the picture?
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The Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire
The Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire is a 27-item parent-/teacher-screening inventory, designed to screen ASD in children with a full-scale IQ 50 or more. It covers the main behavior areas of ASD as well as motor deficits/behaviors , and other associated symptoms such as motor and vocal tics. Items are rated on a 3-point Likert-type scale with total scores ranging from 0 to 54, with higher scores indicating more severe levels of social impairment. In the original validation study of the Swedish version, a cut-off score of 22 for teachers ratings and 19 for parental ratings was suggested for 617 year-old children with FSIQ at or above 50 . For Finnish primary school-aged, 7- to 12-year-old children with an FSIQ 50, the optimal cut-off score is 30 in clinical settings and 28 in total population screening using summed ASSQ scores of parents and teachers ratings .