– Is your child fussy about wearing certain textured clothes?
– Does he cry excessively at the sound of a mixer?
– Are you having difficulty giving your child a head bath or a hair cut?
– Is he fussy about eating certain foods?
If you have answered yes to one or more of the questions, your child may be having a problem with sensory modulation.
Most parents of a child with Autism or ADHD may have come across this term. For those unfamiliar to this, sensory dysfunction occurs when your child’s sensory system is unable to process and respond appropriately to the different sensory input around us.
To simplify, consider the sensory system of our body as a swing. Just as a swing goes up and down, our body may react similarly to the different external stimuli. That is, our child may either be hypersensitive or hyposensitive to certain stimuli. The response to these stimuli is exhibited as behaviors and may hinder them from attaining independence in different areas of their life.
For example a child with gravitational insecurity, may not lift his leg off the floor while standing, to allow you to put on his pants. This may also make walking on uneven surfaces, climbing up a slide etc. difficult for the child. Similarly, you may have noticed that your child refuses to mix his rice and curry by himself, but has no problem with picking up a piece of bread.
While these are examples of hypersensitive reactions or avoidance behavior, on the other end of the spectrum we have the hyposensitive reactions or seeking behavior. Children who are hyposensitive may need more of the particular stimuli in order to reach an optimal sensory state. These also interrupt a smooth execution of your routine as your child may seem to be extremely restless, jumping around or engaging in continuous spinning movements.
Since most of our child’s behavior stems up from a core sensory issue, it is important that we address and restore their sensory balance. Try keeping a log to help you identify your child’s sensory issues and it will help you understand your child better.
After all, the awareness that your child is oral hypersensitive may at least help you understand why they refuse to let you brush their teeth.
Sarah Mary Joseph
Sr. Occupational Therapist
Prayatna, Centre for Child Development, Cochin