Sensory Processing Treatment

Through evaluation, a child's strengths and vulnerabilities in the different sensory systems can be identified. An understanding can also be gained about how different challenges in the child's development of sensory processing may be impacting on function in areas such as bilateral motor coordination or ability to organize and sequence movements through time and space (praxis), social and emotional responses, and for independence in activities of daily living. Every child's clinical picture will vary. A child may have either sensory defensiveness or high threshold or both. An individualized treatment plan is set up for each child.

Play is a child's work. It is through play that children can be engaged to interact with their environments, be motivated to challenge themselves, and participate in activities that will help them to perceive and respond to their environment. When children are motivated and engaged, the brain chemistry is set up for learning.

Many different techniques will be integrated together as we approach your child's strengths and vulnerabilities. You will see the environment set up to be inviting, with a wide variety of potentially challenging activities that a child will be engaged in to help target facilitation of higher skill development. Since treatment is play-based, it may look like your child is simply playing. However, the process is very complex and interactive, with the therapist identifying specific sensory needs and strengths. The therapist is constantly adapting activities, presenting new challenges for the child, and integrating these activities with the child's interests and self-drives in mind. Through this process the child is then set up for potential self-regulation, postural control, praxis and sequencing, eye/hand control, fine motor skill development, social and emotional development, and learning. The use of any one modality is very specific, and is paired with your child's need, and what a given activity can provide for your child. The following examples show how specific play equipment can be used to facilitate a child's functioning.

Trampoline. The trampoline is a powerful tool that is an excellent resource in clinic and home programs. Jumping on the trampoline activated information to the joints and the movement system. It also provides heavy work input to the physical body, activating cardiovascular conditioning, and facilitating self-regulation (calmer state). The trampoline can also be used for increasing self-awareness and motor sequencing, weight-shifting and balance, abdominal activation, and bi-laterality, depending on the activity that the child is engaged in while on the trampoline. For home programs, mini-tramps are not recommended because they interfere with core stability.

Swings. Many different types of swings are available. Each swing has unique properties. Some swings will specifically work on core muscle groups for strengthening and core stability. Other swings are ideal for changing the plane of the child's head for increased intensity of movement stimulation. Other swings will have a higher intensity of input to joints along with the movement activity, which can have potential for strengthening, increasing modulation or self- regulation, or increasing bilateral input to lower and upper extremities. Various eye/hand coordination activities can be used in combination with any of a variety of swings to help facilitate that area of development.

Climbing Wall. A climbing wall is an excellent way to provide heavy work to upper and lower extremity muscles. Because it involves many muscles of the body, it helps facilitate self-regulation, and helps facilitate body organization and sequencing if the child has to plan how to motor in a specific direction for a specific goal. In addition, activities can be integrated into the climbing wall for visual orientation in space, organization, and sequencing. Elongation and strengthening of trunk, upper extremity and lower extremity musculature occurs naturally with this activity.

Hydrotherapy. Water is well known as a therapeutic modality. It provides resistance to all movements a child makes in the water. It also provides pressure touch. The lower the child dives underwater, the more pressure touch is presented to the physical body. Jets in the hydro spa increase the intensity of pressure touch and the resistance to the child's movements. Water properties are calming and organizing, providing pressure touch and proprioceptive input to the body for self-regulation and body awareness. Activities in the water will help strengthen the body. It is easy to facilitate bilateral motor coordination, eye/hand coordination, respiration, and praxis. Since the pool is a highly motivating area for most children, it becomes an optimal place to work on many different aspects of a child's development. It is sometimes easier to get the child's head out of vertical and to stimulate the movement system in the water. Working on balance displacement in the water is ideal, as the buoyancy of the water supports the body, allowing for success even with slower balance responses. The warm temperature, when combined with specific techniques, can improve range of motion and relax tight muscles. 

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