Sensory Integration and Autism

Individuals who have been diagnosed with autism, as well as other developmental disabilities, may have what is known as a dysfunctional sensory system. This can mean that one or more of an individual’s sense are either over- or under-reactive to stimulation. These individuals would be considered to have a sensory processing disorder.

What is a Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing is known as the brains ability to process the different sensations being received at a given time.  Proper sensory processing is imperative for the development of motor, social, and behavioral skills.  When this information is not organized properly in the brain, a sort of neurological “traffic jam” occurs.  An individual experiencing this would be suffering from a Sensory Processing Disorder.  Studies have reported that nearly 1 in 20 children are affected by SPD.

Individuals Presenting with Sensory Processing Disorders May Present With:

  • A decreased attention span
  • Frequent tantrums and irritability
  • Decreased and inappropriate social skills
  • Decreased balance and increased clumsiness
  • Self stimulation behaviors
  • Difficulty remaining alert or calm

Treatment for Sensory Processing Disorders

Treatment for this disorder is usually laid out by a occupational or physical therapist.  General goals for the therapist are:

  • Providing the child with sensory information which helps organize the central nervous system
  • Assisting the child in inhibiting and/or modulating sensory information
  • Assisting the child in processing a more organized response to sensory stimuli

Specifically, physical therapy helps to address abnormal sensory integration with a sensory diet, which includes the appropriate amount of sensory stimulation to help the child function in their environment.  At TBTW, we have a sensory rich pediatric treatment room that includes multiple swings, ball pits, and other sensory stimulating activities.  Child directed therapy keeps the child engaged with therapeutic activities and provides the most benefit for the child.  Our goal is to improve social interaction, self esteem, self regulation and motor skills.  If your child has a sensory processing disorder, contact your physical therapist today to learn more!