Sensory Processing

January 27, 2021
Sensory Processing

This week’s tip comes from the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Mount Sinai!

We all have our own sensory preferences. You can help your patients and their families feel more at ease by considering each child’s unique sensory needs. Some children display heightened sensitivity, or hyperreactivity, to the world around them, while others display weakened responses, or hyporeactivity. Sensory seeking involves fascination with sensory stimuli for extended periods of time or in unusual ways. Sensory symptoms are commonly observed in individuals with and without autism spectrum disorder and can impact social and academic functioning.

What you might see in the exam room:

 

Here are several strategies to keep in mind:

  1. Be curious – ask patients and parents about sensory preferences. You can say, “I want to make this visit as comfortable as possible for you and your child. Do they have any sensory preferences you would like to share (for example, do they tend to be over or under responsive)?”
  2. Be flexible – modify the environment or exam to best meet a patient’s needs (e.g., allow individuals to move around the room, hold onto preferred items, stand during an exam, dim lights if preferred, look at or touch objects used during the exam ahead of time)
  3. Use sensory materials – Encourage parents to bring sensory materials that can ease the stress of the visit.

Note: A referral for an occupational therapy evaluation may be warranted if sensory processing challenges appear to be impacting a child’s everyday life.

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