Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurological condition that affects the way sensory stimulation is processed in the brain. Either making the brain perceive information as hyper-sensitive or hypo-sensitive. SPD can affect anyone; in most cases children with Autism Spectrum Disorders have some sort of sensory processing challenges. Many children without a diagnosis also display sensitivities (hyper- or hypo-) to sensory stimulation in their environment.  Studies indicate that 5-16% of children exhibit symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder.

We have eight sensory systems that can be affected:

  • Visual
  • Tactile
  • Gustatory
  • Vestibular
  • Auditory
  • Proprioception
  • Interoception
  • Olfactory

Pioneering occupational therapist, psychologist, and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D., likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. If you are unsure if your child may have sensory processing challenges, head over to this link and go through the Symptom Checklist.

Current therapeutic interventions for SPD include Sensory Integration Therapy, usually performed by an Occupational Therapist. During this treatment children are moved through various sensory stimulating activities specific to their integration challenges that help to input the brain. Research by the STAR Institute demonstrates that treatment is effective when performed 3-5x/week.

Researchers from UCSF performed a study to better understand the neurological underpinnings of children with SPD compared to typically developing children. In the study, researchers used an advanced form of MRI called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which measures the microscopic movement of water molecules within the brain in order to give information about the brain’s white matter tracts. DTI shows the direction of the white matter fibers and the integrity of the white matter. The brain’s white matter is essential for perceiving, thinking and learning.

The imaging detected abnormal white matter tracts in the SPD subjects, primarily involving areas in the back of the brain, that serve as connections for the auditory, visual and somatosensory (tactile) systems involved in sensory processing, including their connections between the left and right halves of the brain.

This study reveals significant information for the treatment of SPD and children suffering with sensory integration challenges.  The key phrase from their findings was “connections between left and right halves of the brain.” Current treatment standards input the brain with sensory stimulation. This stimulation is supposed to “integrate” the brains senses and help the brain better perceive the incoming information.  We propose treatment for SPD should come from a neurological approach, being that the disorder is neurological in nature. Treatment must work to connect right and left halves of the brain through stimulation of the corpus callosum, the bundle of nerves sending & receiving information between the brain hemispheres.  Treatment must also include integration of primitive reflexes, which lay a foundation in the brain stem in order for the brain to perceive sensory information correctly. From a biomedical perspective, another treatment to consider is increasing magnesium in the child’s diet.

If your child has been diagnosed with SPD or is displaying symptoms of sensory integration challenges, you can start using these three simple movements at home:

  1. Cross Crawl – sitting or standing touch right hand to left knee; left hand to right knee for one minute.
  2. Figure Eights – have child sit with paper at their midline; draw a figure eight sideways on the paper always going up from the middle; complete 20x
  3. Bird Dog – with child on all fours, lift and hold right arm/left leg; then left arm/right leg; complete 10x total

Brain Connex Therapy treatment model is successful in integrating the sensory system through neurological treatment. Neurodevelopmental movements combined with primitive reflex integration and cross body stimulation naturally creates connections between the brain hemispheres and integrates the senses. Contact us today for your free phone consultation to see if our services would benefit your child.

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