James is a grade two student in one of the public schools in town. His teacher mentioned several times that without apparent reason he tends to hit or poke other students in his class with a pencil. James doesn't like it when other students get too close to him or accidently bump into him. He doesn't like lining up, since people can accidently touch him from behind when he can least expect it.
Zoe, a six year old girl, has always been a clumsy child, at least according to her parents. She tends to bump into other people and objects, has messy eating habits and finds it hard to learn new motor skills such as propelling a swing or riding a bicycle. Zoe hates gymnastics at school. When she has to participate in team sports such as volleyball or soccer, she finds it very challenging and effortful. She also knows that she will be the last one to be chosen to join a team of players.
David is a forty year old normative individual. When he has to use a parking meter to dispense a parking ticket it takes him a minute or two to just locate the coin slot among all the other visual details. Last summer when he went to Spain, he lost his way in the airport, as he missed several signs and other visual cues when heading to the gate.
Ella is a nine year old girl who recently started taking piano lessons. When she is taught how to play a musical piece, she can immediately learn it by heart and play it from memory. However, when she has to read the notes for a new tune by herself, she finds it hard to read it correctly as she cannot distinguish between similar looking notes, such as B and G.
James, Zoe, David and Ella have different types of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), which is a new name for Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID). They have difficulty taking in, processing and responding to sensory information (touch, sounds, sights, proprioception, movement, taste and smell) from one's body and the environment. This results in emotional, behavioral and academic challenges.
The classification of SPD includes three primary diagnostic areas:
1. Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD) which includes Sensory Over-Responsivity, Under-Responsivity and Sensory Seeking as displayed by James and David above.
2. Sensory-Based Motor Disorder (SBMD) which includes Dyspraxia (or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)) and Postural Disorder as displayed by Zoe above.
3. Sensory Discrimination Disorder (SDD) which can affect one or more of the sensory systems as displayed by Ella above.
Kids don't grow out of SPD but they can have better self-regulation skills and learn how to best handle their sensory challenges. In many cases occupational therapy can help the individual develop strategies to cope with SPD and reduce its detrimental effects.
Since parents know their kids best and see them in different situations and environments, any information provided to the occupational therapist will help with better understanding of the child's sensory processing pattern and the way it affects his or her behavior. This information, additional findings from standardized tests and an observation-based assessment will allow the occupational therapist to develop a therapeutic program that will involve the child, caregivers and educators and will help the child to better function at home and at school.