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A little girl with a sensory processing disorder looks at her teacher confused.
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Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder

Here’s what Sensory Processing Disorder is, and how you minister to kids living with this disorder.

Kailee fears new situations and hides behind her mother in a new social setting. This may be normal for a young child, but not for an 11-year-old. Kailee has never been able to ride a bike or enjoy a swing because she’s unable to integrate information from her sense of touch. Kailee’s mother admits that even though her son has been plagued with chronic illnesses, Kailee is the most trying of the two.

Seven-year-old Jake tests as a genius in many areas. He can verbally spell any word, but when asked to hold a pencil and write the word, he pitches a tantrum. Ever since he was a small child, Jake has been disciplined for licking inappropriate things such as shopping carts or fence posts. And day in and day out at home, discipline is a trying challenge with Jake.

Both Kailee and Jake have sensory processing disorder. For years, Christian educators have heard about and sought to understand children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Now there’s another identified neurological disorder that affects children’s abilities in the classroom and elsewhere.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing for anyone is the ability to take in and process information through the senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, and hearing), to connect it to prior experiences, and to make a meaningful response. Children with sensory processing disorder are unable to do this in one or more areas.

While this is not an exhaustive checklist, they may have more than one of these symptoms:

  • oversensitivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds;
  • underreactivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds (body whirling or crashing);
  • easily distracted;
  • social and/or emotional problems;
  • activity level that is high or unusually low;
  • physical clumsiness or apparent carelessness (poor balance or motor coordination);
  • impulsive and lacking in control (distractible, frustrated, or aggressive);
  • difficulty making transitions from one situation to another;
  • inability to unwind or calm self; -poor self-concept (may appear lazy, bored, or unmotivated);
  • delays in speech, language, or motor skills; or
  • delays in academic achievement.

If you suspect that a child in your ministry may have sensory processing disorder, refer the parent and child to a qualified occupational therapist, physical therapist, or educational psychologist. Through standardized testing and observations, the therapist can make recommendations for appropriate treatment.

For more information about sensory processing disorder, contact the STAR Institute.

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