Sensory Processing


What does it feel like to have a Sensory Processing Disorder?

Imagine that your skin feels as though it is crawling with bugs every time you put on a pair of pants or experience a clothing tag behind your neck. Imagine that your head feels like it is going to explode when you enter a noisy restaurant. Imagine that food feels and tastes like something so grotesque you can’t even imagine swallowing it. Imagine that your feet feel like they are on fire when you put on a pair of socks or shoes. Imagine that you are trying to look at something but your eyes keep drifting away from it and can’t stay focused. Imagine that you are constantly living in fear with sensory overload, insomnia, and anxiety so high that you are constantly lashing out and melting down with every new situation. This is what it is like to have a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

What is a Sensory Processing Disorder?

Children and adults with SPD have trouble interpreting their sensations of sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, motion, balance, and/or body position in space. The brain does not know what to do with certain types of stimuli, and therefore, sensations can be perceived as too strong or too weak. There is no middle ground. It seems that the “filtering” mechanism in the brain is turned up too high or too low. For example, when auditory information does not get interpreted properly in the brain, a person with SPD can get lost in a sea of sounds. They cannot make out what they hear, even though their basic hearing test looks normal. This is called an Auditory Processing Disorder. A similar phenomenon happens with the visual system when the two eyes do not work well together, preventing the brain from really seeing what is right in front of them! Just like a computer, the sensory code must be processed by the brain in order to be interpreted and appropriately filed away. When sensory signals are over or under processed, aspects of our development will be compromised, causing learning and behavioral difficulties.

What can cause a Sensory Processing Disorder?

Each area of the brain participates in the overall processing of sensory data. It is important that the most essential parts of the brain, located in the brainstem and midbrain, have integrated pathways so that our senses work well together and with our motor system. Data cannot be properly distributed to higher areas of the brain and processed correctly when our primitive or primary reflexes do not mature the way they should in the first year of life. These are the movements we are born with. They help us connect our sensory and motor experiences together and serve for protection and survival. Unintegrated primary reflexes are like having a traffic jam at the bottom or your brain and not being to get to your destination at the top without having to take a lot of detours that may get you lost and into trouble.

Is there help for a Sensory Processing Disorder?

Parents and families, please do not despair! SPD can be helped! There are actually specialized assessment techniques to identify underdeveloped reflexes that are the culprit for many motor, learning, and behavioral disorders. Easy exercises can be performed to help improve these low brain traffic jams and make room for new and improved speed lanes to top of the brain for better processing.

The Masgutova Method (MNRI) is one very effective intervention for improving SPD. Evaluation by a certified Masgutova Core Specialist, such as Dr. Leah Light, takes only about 30 minutes. Most reflex integration programs offered at Brainchild Institute can be completed in 3-12 months, depending on the severity of the problem. Benefits of the MNRI include improved attention and focus, reduced hyperactivity and impulsivity, improved auditory and visual processing, better handwriting, and higher academic achievement. One of the most dramatic improvements parents have described repeatedly, especially with young children, is their rapid speech and language development after only a few months of doing the training. To find out more about MNRI techniques and how to help your child or loved one with Sensory Processing Disorder, please contact the Brainchild Institute at 954-987-8887.

For example, if the sensation of touch is not processed correctly by the brain, children may seem to be unaffectionate and untouchable. On the other hand, they may be too rough in their play, bumping into people and things with high impact and may want to be tickled excessively or tightly squeezed. Others might be very picky eaters with a limited diet and strongly protest against certain food textures or tastes. Some may never feel full and eat constantly. Still others may find clothing annoying and prefer to wear as little as possible or choose to wear the same garment every day. Some may be panicked by being turned upside-down or while others cannot hang upside-down enough. Others may cover their ears for loud sounds or become overwhelmed in noisy crowds. They may cry a lot over little things or never seem to feel pain or tend to be clumsy with lots of bruises on their legs and foreheads. Some individuals with SPD may be overly fearful of taking risks while others may take excessive risks because their emotional regulation and fear reactions are not working properly.

Sometimes, a child might pass a hearing test but the sound does not get interpreted properly in the brain and they get lost in the sea of sounds. This is called an Auditory Processing Disorder. Just like a computer, the code must be processed by the brain in order to be interpreted and appropriately filed away. These children often have reading problems because sounds do not “sound” right to them. A similar phenomenon happens with the visual system when the two eyes do not work well together, preventing the brain from really seeing what is right in front of them!