Sensory Processing Disorder and children

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Transcript: Wednesday, November 01, 2006 | 7:05 PMBy Art McFarland (New York – WABC, November 1, 2006) (WABC) — If your young child often has tantrums, or often withdraws from everyday activities, it may be more than a behavior problem.
Your child may have a condition called sensory processing disorder.

It interferes with life and learning, so it’s often treated in pre-schools.

Education reporter Art McFarland has details.

Under a large gray foam pillow is 4-year-old Elijah, in an occupational therapy session at the Alcott School in Yonkers.

The therapist bounces a ball on him and puts him through other exercises to treat his sensory processing disorder.

“He is very sensitive to loud noises, very sensitive to tags on clothing, sensitive to temperature,” Elijah’s mom, Lisa Kitterman-Cohen said. “Anywhere from simply making him uncomfortable to sending him into a screaming, raging fit.”

The therapy calms him, so he can focus and learn.

Many children at the Alcott School have the disorder.

They can’t properly interpret the information they get through sight, sound, touch or movement, so they don’t respond like typical children.

“For some, sensory input is so overwhelming,” Laurette Olson said. “Everyday sensory input, that it can be nearly impossible to focus on everyday activities.”

The therapy is designed to be fun.

“I like toys,” one student said.

The students also get what are called, “accomodations,” in their environment to help them learn.

Some wear weighted vests to make them feel more grounded.

Fidgety children sit on bumpy wedges, so they can wiggle, but still stay put.

Some wear headphones to block distracting noises.

It’s estimated that about 5 percent of children have symptoms of sensory processing disorder. However, advocates who want to raise awareness of the condition say too many such children are labeled behavior problems.

“It is a neurological, it is a brain-based disorder,” said Jennifer Brout. “You cannot treat it with sticker charts. Behavioral modifications assume the child can control themselves. These children cannot physiologically control themselves.

If a problem is suspected, parents should contact an occupational therapist through their local school district.

The family may be entitled to early intervention services, which may include pre-school, therapy and even transportation at public expense.

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