Understanding Sensory Processing Issues In Children With Autism

What are Sensory Processing Issues?

sensory processing issuesSensory Processing Issues are one of the issues experienced by children on the autistic spectrum. They find it difficult to process details in their brain. They might be over-sensitive or under-sensitive in receiving information in their brain that even a single task seems difficult for them to accomplish.

What are the Causes of Sensory Processing Issues?

The precise causes of sensory processing issues are yet to be established but recent studies show that genetics might be one of the possible causes. On a 2006 study of twins, they found that hypersensitivity to light and sound may have a strong genetic influence. They respond strongly to stimuli like a stroke on the hand or a loud sound. With the use of brain-imaging techniques, they detected that there are certain areas of the brain that may affect how sensory information is processed.

What are the Symptoms of Sensory Processing Issues?

The symptoms of Sensory Processing Issues could be categorised into either hypersensitivity (over- sensitive) or hypersensitive (under-sensitive).

Hypersensitive children have a strong response to loud noises or sounds. They don’t want to be touched even if they know the person who touched them. They are afraid of crowds and don’t want to play on playground equipment because of the constant fear that they might fall or bump into things. These could cause them extreme anxiety when they grow old if not treated early.

Hyposensitive children are not sensitive to their surroundings. They have an increased tolerance to pain. They are sensory seeking and have a strong urge to touch people or things even when it is not necessary.

Some children with sensory processing issues may manifest both signs of hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity. My son is a typical child who experienced both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity reactions to certain stimuli. Meltdowns, for instance, may occur if a child goes to an unfamiliar environment. These meltdowns could be quite overwhelming to both parent and child because it might cause a problem in controlling behaviour once it started.

Children who are hypersensitive on the other hand may find themselves constantly running away from the environment that is too stimulating to them. They find pleasure by “Stimming” which is a self-stimulating behaviour or a form of repetitive behaviour that they do in order to provide themselves sensory input.

Examples of these behaviours are jumping, running, tiptoeing, hand flapping, scratching, spinning objects, listening to the same song or noise, sniffing objects or people, chewing on things, repeating words or “echolalia”.

How can you help your child deal with their Sensory Processing Issues?

You can help your child deal with their Sensory Processing Issues by consulting your child’s Paediatrician, for a comprehensive assessment. She might then refer your child to a Specialist for developmental screening. In order to expedite the process, you must ensure that you are ready by taking notes of your child’s behavioural problems, when it all started and what measures you have undertaken at home to help calm your child.

An Occupational Therapist could provide sensory integration therapy to your child through play sessions where both you and your child could participate in.

Ways on How You Can Help Your Child with their Sensory Processing Issues at Home

Hypersensitivity

Reduce Sound Overload

Loud unexpected noises, overlapping voices and high-pitched frequency sounds may cause auditory issues. Speak softly if you have a loud voice. Buy headphones designed to remove background noise. The one below could be extremely helpful in calming your child thus helping him to engage with you.

Reduce Visual Overload

Bright and Fluorescent light, particular colours, patterns and contrasts or a combination of these things can all cause various overload. This is known as Irlen Syndrome. Coloured lens or filters can help some ASD children to process problematic visual experience. Ask your local Optometrist to conduct a Colorimetric test to your child for your child to be tested and fitted with a coloured lens. To help you have a rough assessment of how different coloured light affects behaviour, try buying a LED colour changing light bulb like the one below.

Provide Plenty of Rest

Children should have enough sleep at night and plenty of rest during the day in a quiet and darkened room to lessen their hypersensitivity issues because of tiredness.

Hyposensitivity

Children who experience hyposensitivity should experience deep sensory input at regular intervals during the day to help them feel good about themselves and to prevent them experiencing loss of their sense of self when they grow up to become an adult. Squeeze vests and regular short sessions on a trampoline several times a day would help them experience deep sensory sensations. Some ASD children find the sensation of water very helpful. Having regular baths provide light pressure on their bodies thus help them to feel relax. Swimming provides them with the benefit of a physical exercise because their bodies are in constant motion. This also has a calming effect that would help them with their hyposensitivity issues.

Summary

Understanding Sensory Processing Issues are vital for children with Autism. Hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity are the two sensory issues that needed to be addressed and treated early so that the child won’t suffer from extreme anxiety until they reached adulthood.

Useful Links and Resources:

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/sensory-processing-issues/understanding-sensory-processing-issues

http://www.webmd.com/children/sensory-processing-disorder#2-3

https://aspectsofaspergers.wordpress.com/2011/01/01/strategies-for-dealing-with-sensory-overload/

www.autism.org.uk/sensory

Hope you find this article useful.  I love to hear from you.  If you have any questions or perhaps suggestions on your child’s sensory processing experience, please do share them by leaving your comments below.

Adel 🙂

10 thoughts on “Understanding Sensory Processing Issues In Children With Autism

  1. I found your post to be helpful. Many people don’t understand what sensory processing issues in children with autism is. Your post explains exactly what there is to know about it. Keep up your hard work. I would love to follow. I’m always willing to learn and your web site teaches what there isto understand about autism in general. Thank you for sharing.

    1. You are welcome and thank you as well for your kind words and for supporting my advocacy.

  2. Hi, this is really useful.
    My niece has both hyper and hypo sensitivity to different stimuli. She responds well to a weighted blanket to sleep displays significant anxiety at change and is also non verbal. It makes it communication challenging but she always makes herself understood. 🙂

    She loves lights and loud noises are not too much of a problem unless they go on for too long and become over-stimulating.

    She is awesome.
    Jenny

    1. Thank you, Jenny, for sharing your experience with your niece. By continuing the things that you are doing now to help your niece, she will definitely progress until adulthood. Remember to celebrate every milestone with her and she will feel this. This will her to continue achieving and behaving nicely. All the best to you and your niece! 🙂

  3. Hi Adel, thanks very much for an excellent post. I found this very informative and interesting. I had an idea of what autism is but this gave me a better insight into autism.

    I hate to see people who complain about children who are maybe suffering from a meltdown in the middle of a shop as they have no idea why the child is behaving in the way they are.

    I will make sure that I direct people to your site if they are looking for information on any aspects of autism.

    1. We need to understand how and why children with autism behave in a certain way which is different to other children so that we know what to do. This is the reason why I created this website to raise awareness and understanding of autism so that people could accept them as they are and make this world a better place to live in. Thank you, Cheryl, for supporting me by referring people to my site to have a better understanding of autism. 🙂

  4. Hi Adel

    Your post is very interesting. It explains really well some of the behaviors of autistic kids, related to their sensory processing issues. I have shared your article on my social networks to teach people about some autistic kids behaviors and the reasons behind those behaviors. Keep writing, you make a great job.

    Best Regards, Jeff, Clinical Psychologist

    1. Thank you, Jean. Their sensory issues have a great effect on their behaviou. By providing the knowledge, parents will be able to know what to do to lessen their child’s sensory issues. Please do share this article with people you know who will benefit from it. Again, many thanks to you. 🙂

  5. Hi Adel

    This is a very interesting article on kids with Autism and sensory processing issues. It must be very hard on the parents to deal with this in their child. At what age can a child be diagnosed and start treatment for this? Will this always be an issue for them or do they outgrow it?

    1. Hi, Robin. A child could be diagnosed with autism as early as two years old but with regards to sensory processing issues this is not diagnosable as a Mental Health Disorder so it is hard to get the necessary treatment. The treatment is geared towards behavioural and occupational therapy. With regards to outgrowing the sensory processing issues, they will outgrow some but not all. This is happening already to my son. He had outgrown some of his sensory issues but still finds it hard to manage being in crowded and noisy places.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top