All of us experience challenges to our sensory systems. These challenges can cause us to fidget, pace, stretch, or sigh. There are other situations that create more of a sensation of sensory overload. Everyone has a different threshold of tolerance. At some point, the system has to break and we can no longer integrate all of those senses.
We fall apart.
We drop what we are doing, get up to get a drink of water, or hightail it out of the situation to take a deep breath and relax. We have a tendency to respond to the stress of sensory overload with anxiety, shaken nerves, frustration, maybe a little depression, or other meltdowns. As adults, we can typically use compensatory strategies or modulation strategies that we have developed over time. Preparing in advance for high sensory-stress situations, having a granola bar in the purse, or a bottle of water in our desk might be all it takes to cope with the sensory overload.
Sensory input is something that every individual craves whether it comes in the form of doodling while on a boring phone call or doing a few yoga stretches to prepare for the day.
Children with sensory processing challenges may not be capable of applying these strategies in their daily activities. And for the child who inaccurately perceives or processes sensory information, it’s a recipe for meltdowns, panic attacks, crying fits, physical outbursts, or other mechanisms of response.
Some kids over-react to everyday sensory input.
Other kids under-react to everyday sensory input.
Still other kids seek out or crave sensory input beyond their everyday sensory input.
Some children lack coordination or seem clumsy or awkward, with praxis issues.
Some children have issues with posture, balance, or controlling movements.
Sensory processing disorder can look like many different things. It’s a puzzle in a maze of input, happening in a different scenario each day.