Sensory processing is all about how your body receives and responds to information that comes in through the senses. In school, we learn that there are 5 senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, or hearing. Did you know there actually 8 senses? Our vestibular and proprioceptive senses control movement and body position and interoception helps us recognize and understand our internal body cues (hunger, needing to pee, 'butterflies' in the stomach, etc).
Sensory processing is occurring and influencing every single activity we do on a daily basis: eating, getting dressed, learning, working, socializing, and moving around. Both children and adults can have problems with sensory processing. Children are more likely to struggle with sensory processing disorder but adults can have symptoms too! In most cases, it's likely that these symptoms have existed for most of our lives but we have intuitively developed ways to deal with their sensory processing issues that have disguised some of the problems caused by this disorder.
What Are Some Common Sensory Processing Issues?
We all have unique baseline for how sensitive we are to the sensory input all around us. Some people live with low registration, which is when our brain does not easily register new or subtle sensory input. When we live with low registration, we tend to have difficulty noticing some of the things around us, space out often, seem uninterested to other people, be "clumsy", or have low energy levels most of the time.
All of us seek out sensory input! Sometimes though, our baseline need for sensory input may be higher than average. If we're not mindful of meeting this need, our intuitive seeking of stimulation may run amuck! We might have difficulty sitting still, frequently touch objects or other people, constantly move or fidget, bump into things, pick at our skin or nails, or take more risks with our body.
Some of our baselines for sensitivity to sensory input are very low, making us extremely sensitive to even subtle changes in the environment around us. This may result in an extreme response to loud sounds, being distracted easily by background noises that others don't seem to hear, being "startled" easily, trouble tolerating hair brushing or teeth brushing, or difficulty tolerating bright lights.
When we're easily overwhelmed by the sensory information coming in through the body, we may intuitively engage in avoidance behavior to compensate. This may make us seem timid, cover our ears at loud noises, avoid certain clothing textures or fabrics, be picky eaters, avoid busy environments, or have a strong "disgust" response to certain messy textures.
What Causes Sensory Processing Issues?
It's complicated! While the "official" cause of sensory processing disorder is unknown, sensory processing issues tend to run in families. This means that genetics may be a contributing factor as well as congenital abnormalities. It's common to see problems with sensory processing co-occur with other disorders such as autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
How Do We Regulate Our Sensory System
Every 'body' is different! The first step to regulate our sensory system is to understand our own individual sensory needs. Every person has a sensory system that is completely unique to themselves. It's incredibly important to understand what your individual needs are. That's why it's important to seek professional help and assessment!
There's no "one-size-fits-all" approach to the sensory system. Finding what works for you is essential. How do we do that? Exploration and experimentation. We've got to try new things! Through exploration we try different sensory techniques to see what aids and benefits our body in regulation and discover what environmental obstacles to address.
You're not in this alone! It's critical that we verbalize our sensory needs with those around us. Whether you are a parent wanting to understand your child's sensory needs or an adult wanting to create a more healthy environment at home or work. Communicating your needs can help to set you up for success!
We're not talking about weight loss here. A sensory diet is a specific plan for you implementing your sensory strategies, ensuring that you stay at your optimal arousal level throughout your day. We want to minimize any meltdowns or sensory overloads that can happen when we aren't setting aside the time to help keep our body regulated.
How Can We Help?
Our therapists are trained, experienced, and certified in working with sensory processing challenges. We offer individual therapy, group therapy, and occupational therapy to engage you as a whole-person while you work towards self-regulating.
Issues with sensory regulation can impact your daily life. Our therapists are ready to provide you with the tools you need to ease the chaos inside you and help guide you to a more regulated "in-tune" you.