Occupational therapy played a huge part in his life from about 2 years to about 4 years of age. He was diagnosed by an occupational therapist with sensory processing disorder. Luckily this was all covered under medicaid for him. We did 1 or 2 sessions a week over the course of 2 years and found it to be an invaluable part of moving his progress forwards.
Our son was, and still is on some level, a sensory seeker. Meaning that he would have a desire to crash his body physically into things. He threw himself off the couch onto hard objects, he would run and smash into the hard arms of the couch, he would fall flat on the floor, arms outstretched and lie there with a big grin on his face. Its funny and disconcerting at the same time. Luckily for us, although we have had some significant bumps and bruises there have been no broken bones or stitches – amazingly. Although when he was 2 he climbed onto the stroller backwards and hit his face into the concrete patio, I rushed him to the ER only to be told kids that age don’t break their noses, apparently it’s just cartilage – who knew? Anyway it was good to know that at least he didn’t have a concussion or anything. Although he graduated from the Occupational Therapy sessions at age 4 he still exhibits many of these behaviors now. Even though he has addressed much of them over time.
In addition to the list below he likes to be undressed, as soon as he walks through the door after school he will strip down to his boxer shorts and remains that way much of the time. He doesn’t particularly care to go out much and we are not convinced it’s just because he doesn’t want to get dressed. He doesn’t really mind what clothes he wears, jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, with or without tags, never complains about his socks or anything, just prefers not to wear clothes. We really put it down to his sensory preferences although it doesn’t seem to cause him an issue when he has to be dressed.
We had OT for Vestibular Dysfunction & Proprioceptive problems and currently he still has OT at his elementary school for his pencil grip, although that is minimal as they allow him to use a rubber pencil grip that you can buy at the office supply stores, which just helps him position his fingers correctly.
Some of the problems he had were as follows:
- 1. Hypersensitivity To Movement (Over-Responsive)
- Was afraid of being tipped upside down, sideways or backwards; will strongly resist getting hair washed over the sink.
- 2. Hyposensitivity To Movement (Under-Responsive):
- in constant motion, can’t seem to sit still
- craves fast, spinning, and/or intense movement experiences
- loves being tossed in the air
- could spin for hours and never appear to be dizzy
- loves the fast, intense, and/or scary rides at amusement parks
- always jumping on furniture, trampolines, spinning in a swivel chair, or getting into upside down positions
- loves to swing as high as possible and for long periods of time
- is a “thrill-seeker”; dangerous at times
- always running, jumping, hopping etc. instead of walking
- Likes sudden or quick movements, such as, going over a big bump in the car or on a bike
- 3. Poor Muscle Tone And/Or Coordination:
- difficulty getting dressed and doing fasteners, zippers, and buttons
- has poor body awareness; bumps into things, knocks things over, trips, and/or appears clumsy
- poor fine motor skills; difficulty using “tools”, such as pencils, silverware, combs, scissors etc.
Proprioceptive Sense: input from the muscles and joints about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement, and changes in position in space.
- Signs Of Proprioceptive Dysfunction:
- 1. Sensory Seeking Behaviors:
- seeks out jumping, bumping, and crashing activities
- stomps feet when walking
- Kicks his/her feet on floor or chair while sitting at desk/table
- bites or sucks on fingers
- loves/seeks out “squishing” activities
- loves “roughhousing” and tackling/wrestling games
- frequently falls on floor intentionally
- would jump on a trampoline for hours on end
- loves pushing/pulling/dragging objects
- loves jumping off furniture or from high places
- frequently hits, bumps or pushes other children
- chews on pens, straws, shirt sleeves etc.
- 2. Difficulty With “Grading Of Movement”:
- difficulty regulating pressure when writing/drawing; may be too light to see or so hard the tip of writing utensil breaks
- written work is messy and he/she often rips the paper when erasing
Identifying and understanding this disorder is HUGE! There are more checklists available here. The information on the website continues with the following:
Please understand the “Five Caveats” that Carol Stock Kranowitz points out in her book, “The Out-Of-Sync Child” (1995), about using a checklist such as this. She writes:
1. “The child with sensory dysfunction does not necessarily exhibit every characteristic. Thus, the child with vestibular dysfunction may have poor balance but good muscle tone.”
2. “Sometimes the child will show characteristics of a dysfunction one day but not the next. For instance, the child with proprioceptive problems may trip over every bump in the pavement on Friday yet score every soccer goal on Saturday. Inconsistency is a hallmark of every neurological dysfunction. ”
3. “The child may exhibit characteristics of a particular dysfunction yet not have that dysfunction. For example, the child who typically withdraws from being touched may seem to be hypersensitive to tactile stimulation but may, instead, have an emotional problem.”
4. “The child may be both hypersensitive and hyposensitive. For instance, the child may be extremely sensitive to light touch, jerking away from a soft pat on the shoulder, while being rather indifferent to the deep pain of an inoculation.”
5. “Everyone has some sensory integration problems now and then, because no one is well regulated all the time. All kinds of stimuli can temporarily disrupt normal functioning of the brain, either by overloading it with, or by depriving it of, sensory stimulation.”