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What are sensory processing needs?

Different children notice and respond to different things from the world around them. Your child may be more sensitive to certain sensations and activities than their friends. These differences are usually normal and part of what makes us individual.

What is sensory processing?

The term ‘sensory processing’ describes how we understand information from the world around us – through our senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. There are also two other senses, ‘proprioception’ (body awareness) and ‘vestibular’ (balance and movement). Some children may show a heightened response to some sensations and this can very occasionally be a sign of a sensory processing difficulty. However, it is important to remember that having a sensitivity in one area, during certain times of the day, does not usually mean that your child has a sensory processing difficulty or needs to see an occupational therapist. A great many children under the age of five, with no sensory processing issues, will find certain parts of their daily routine difficult. These often include bath time, hair brushing, visiting the supermarket and loud or unpredictable noises.

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Different Types of Sensory Need

Hypersensitivity

Hypersensitive children can be extremely reactive to sensory stimulation, and can find it overwhelming. They may:

  • Be unable to tolerate bright lights and loud noises like ambulance sirens
  • Refuse to wear clothing because it feels scratchy or
    irritating—even after cutting out all the tags and labels-or shoes
    because they feel “too tight.”
  • Be distracted by background noises that others don’t seem to hear
  • Be fearful of surprise touch, avoid hugs and cuddling even with familiar adults
  • Be overly fearful of swings and playground equipment
  • Often have trouble understanding where their body is in relation to other objects or people
  • Bump into things and appear clumsy
  • Have trouble sensing the amount of force they’re applying; so for
    example, they may rip the paper when erasing, pinch too hard or slam
    objects down.

Hyposensitivity

Hyposensitive kids are under-sensitive, which makes them want to seek out more sensory stimulation. They may:

  • Have a constant need to touch people or textures, even when it’s not socially acceptable
  • Not understand personal space even when kids the same age are old enough to understand it
  • Have an extremely high tolerance for pain
  • Not understand their own strength
  • Be very fidgety and unable to sit still
  • Love jumping, bumping and crashing activities
  • Enjoy deep pressure like tight bear hugs
  • Crave fast, spinning and/or intense movement
  • Love being tossed in the air and jumping on furniture and trampolines.

Have a concern?

If you are concerned about your child or would like some advice, our SENDCO is Mrs Helen Willcox.

Mrs Willcox can be contacted via email (admin@orchidvale.org.uk) or by phone (01793 745006).

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