Sensory processing disorder (SPD) can make participation in life activities—what occupational therapists refer to as occupations—very difficult. Luckily, there are options and strategies to help improve sensory processing and make life much smoother and more enjoyable.
Sensory-based occupational therapy (OT), may look like play to adults, but to the child it is their work and necessary for improving overall abilities to process sensory information more appropriately. Jumping, swinging, climbing and playing in multisensory mediums—such as shaving cream, beans, rice, or play dough—all have a place in their growth and the development of sensory processing abilities.
As the child plays and learns more about their body and how to use it through treatment for sensory processing disorder, their brain improves its ability to process sensory information more efficiently. These children are then able to handle situations more appropriately and participate in everyday activities including self-care, fine motor and social skills.
This process can take months for long lasting effects, but parents often see a difference after the first few visits.
Occupational therapists that specialize in SPD and autism are especially adept at helping individuals on the spectrum succeed. These therapists are skilled in testing and providing treatment, compiling strategies to modify the environment, developing home programs, and giving suggestions to schools and vocational programs to improve participation in life’s activities.
When looking for an occupational therapist, it is important they have advanced training in sensory integration or SPD and, if possible, are SIPT (Sensory Integration and Praxis Test) certified.
Though occupational therapy services may be provided in a variety of settings—including home and school—the clinical setting is much more conducive to treating SPD and the underlying causes of the child’s difficulties. This is because a clinic will have specific equipment designed to promote engagement in therapy and develop skills necessary to overcome sensory difficulties.
You also want to make sure they have an OT gym that is well equipped to treat SPD. A phone call and an interview with the therapist may be beneficial.
by Dr. Gayla A. Aguilar, OTR, OTD
Does your child have a sensory processing disorder? How does your occupational therapist help?