Occupational Therapy

Sensory Processing Differences

Everyone has their own way of processing the sensory information we receive from the outside world. Hearing, smell, taste, touch, sight, how we sense where our bodies are in space, our sense of the way our bodies move, and understanding our body signals (e.g., hunger, thirst, emotions) are each a different way our bodies receive sensory information, also known as ‘the senses’.

People who are neurodiverse or have experienced trauma, process sensory information differently than others. As we grow, we learn how to adapt or manage our sensory processing differences to fit into our environments, like home, school or karate. How does it work? We pick up information from our surroundings using our senses, and this information is sent to our nervous system. Our nervous system processes the information and generates a response or meaning to what is happening around us. These senses can help us understand our surroundings, soothe us, excite us, or make us feel overwhelmed.

For some individuals, these experiences can be extremely difficult to tolerate and result in challenging behavior. This is where our occupational therapists come in- they can help determine and provide tools to meet or manage your child’s sensory needs.

What are signs your child could benefit from an occupational therapist?

  • Unable to tolerate a noisy environment
  • A child may have a hard time regulating their thoughts or voice
  • Particular about specific clothing
  • Consistently having extreme difficulty focusing or completing tasks
  • Has difficulty with body awareness, such as running into objects or others
  • Seems to be constantly moving or fidgeting
  • Easily distracted or overwhelmed by visual stimuli (toys, colors, lights)
  • Have a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, or have a history of trauma and are struggling with any of the above

In a nutshell

Here are a few ways an occupational therapist can help:

  • Help you as a caregiver understand what it means to live with sensory processing differences
  • Understand more about your child’s specific sensory profile
  • Learn more about how to read your child’s cues
  • Help educate or advocate for your child to have accommodations or available supports in their frequented environment
  • Plan and implement a sensory diet in child’s frequented environments