Sensory Processing Disorder

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

bigstock-child-holding-his-hands-agains-3036501-1Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly called “sensory integration disorder”) is a condition where sensory messages (taste, touch, visual, auditory) aren’t signaled to the brain correctly. This can cause children to have inappropriate motor and behavioral reactions to sensory stimuli. It is as if these children’s brains are wired differently in how they process sensory information. SPD was initially pioneered by occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD. She compared SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly.

It is estimated that 1 in 20 children suffers from some form of significant sensory processing issue. This can be a wide variety of problems including oversensitivity to lights, odors, noises, touch, balance, and taste. In children who are gifted and those with ADHD, Autism, and Fragile X syndrome, the prevalence of SPD is much higher than in the general population.

Some children have an over reactive response to sensory input, while others can have an extremely under-active response to sensory stimulation including a lack of reaction to pain, heat and cold.

Appropriately integrating sensory information is critical for children to accomplish everyday activities that we take for granted like eating, riding a bike, or wearing certain textured clothing. Watching a movie in a theater, with loud noises and a variety of visual stimuli, can be overwhelming. Here in Phoenix, Ariz., there is an organization that helps provide Sensory Friendly Films local movie showings that are sensory friendly for children with SPDs.

To find out more about SPD visit the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation website.

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Conventional Treatment

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Conventional treatment for SPD is based on occupational therapy (OT). This typically involves fun, play-based therapy sessions that are designed with sensory stimulating environments. Occupationaltherapists often work with children in private clinics, hospital outpatient departments, and in the school setting. Training the family to be involved in the treatment is often critical to success.

OT sessions may involve activities such as swinging and spinning, as well as tactile, visual, auditory, and taste experiences. OT centers are often designed to appear more like a playground than a medical facility. The goal of OT is to help children appropriately “detect, regulate, interpret, and execute” motor and behavioral responses to sensations to help them better function with everyday sensory stimuli. Read more about occupational therapy for sensory integration disorder here.

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Homeopathic Treatment

Homeopathy provides caring, gentle, and effective all-natural treatment for children suffering from Sensory Processing Disorders (SPDs), without harmful side effects. Homeopathic medicines are made from natural substances and are prepared so that they are entirely non-toxic.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, regulates the manufacture and sale of homeopathic medicines. Homeopathy improves health by gently promoting the body’s innate capacity to heal and restore balance.

There are several benefits to this type of treatment for children with SPDs:

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  • Homeopathic remedies are easy to take and taste good, so most children like them, even very finicky eaters.
  • Homeopathy can help sensory problems with sensitivities to light, noises, odors, textures, tastes, and touch.
  • Because homeopathy is a holistic therapy, when we treat children with SPDs, we are also treating the whole body. If the child also suffers from other problems such as chronic recurrent ear infections, allergies, digestive problems, tantrums, violent behaviors, language delays, or other health concerns, these issues too may be helped by comprehensive homeopathic treatment.

Homeopathy can work very well in combination with conventional occupational therapy (OT). OT helps children by desensitizing them to noxious sensory stimuli and by helping to modify the environment for the child from the outside-in. Homeopathy works by stimulating a healing response in the body that helps restore balance to the sensory system from the inside-out. Combining the two can offer the best of both worlds of treatment to a child suffering from SPDs.

Research Study: Homeopathy Helped Sensory Processing Problems

A paper by Praful Bravalia out of India in 2011 shows a lot of promise for that ability of homeopathy to help children with sensory processing disorders.(1) Bravalia’s new paper was an outcomes-based study that reported the results of treating 123 children with autism at the Spandan Holistic Multidisciplinary Institute from 1998 to 2009. Because there was a large subset of children in the study with sensory processing issues, the group was able to collect some valuable information on the effectiveness of homeopathy for children with SPDs.

Bravalia’s group measured treatment effectiveness with the ATEC (Autism Treatment Evaluation Check-list) scoring system. The ATEC was developed by Dr. Bernard Rimland of the Autism Research Institute. It is an internationally recognized scoring system to measure changes in autistic symptoms after any treatment. The ATEC has four subsets that also measure a range of symptom scores for the following categories: communication, sociability, sensory problems, and health and behavior.

Thirty-two of the children in the study were in a subgroup of data that was analyzed because they had very pronounced sensory problems at the onset of the study. Their ATEC scores reduced from 73.68 at the time of starting homeopathic treatment to 55.74 after 12 months of treatment, and continued to reduce further to 46.41 after 18 months of treatment. This is a 43% reduction in sensory symptoms in a year and a half of treatment. This shows that homeopathy can be very effective for treating sensory processing problems. Since SPD’s are a long-standing chronic problem, this study was also valuable in showing the time frame in which we should expect to see some measurable improvements in symptoms.

According to the ATEC scores, the symptoms continued to improve at 12 and 18 months, which indicates that commitment to chronic, long-term treatment will yield far better results than expecting an immediate quick-fix to these chronic problems. To read more in depth about this research study, visit our blog here.

  1. Bravalia, P. Autism Spectrum Disorder: Holistic Homeopathy. Homeopathic Links Spring 2011, Vol. 24: pp. 31-38.

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Case Study: Sensory Processing Disorder

bigstock-all-smiles-2103240Alejandra was an intelligent yet feisty 6-year-old female whose parents brought her for homeopathic treatment of violent temper tantrums and problems with loud noises, odors and lights. She suffered from sensory processing disorder and was in fact so sensitive to odors she could detect a faint disturbing smell from the other side of the house. Additionally, loud noises irritated her and made her fly into a violent rage because they bothered her so much. She couldn’t stand bright lights and would always ask for the room to be dim and needed sunglasses to go out of the house.

Within a month of homeopathic treatment Alejandra’s parents reported that she was like a new kid. Alejandra stopped throwing violent tantrums and was markedly less sensitive to noises, odors and lights. I’ve seen many children with sensory processing issues like Alejandra’s that benefit from homeopathic treatment.

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