Sensory or Behavior
Is it Sensory or is it Behavior?
How Kids in Motion can Help!
Understanding your child’s development and behaviors can be challenging and overwhelming. With many different opinions and suggestions on what your child should or shouldn’t be doing can be stressful and confusing. Although, having the proper resources and education is important to improve your knowledge on ways to help your child develop to the best of their ability and Kids in Motion is here to help.
Often as therapists, parents, and educators, we hear the words “sensory” and “behavior” floating around. What do these truly mean, what do they look like, and how can we intervene accordingly? Although these two can be connected in some scenarios, they often require a specialist to evaluate and determine the cause of the behavior, provide the intervention, and monitor the outcome; let’s start with the basics.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
Sensory Processing Disorder refers to the ability to receive, process, and react to incoming sensory information within our surrounding environment; this can include movement, information from our muscles/joints, and our sense of touch, smell, vision, and taste.
SPD occurs when our bodies and our brain cannot organize and make sense of this information, therefore producing an inappropriate response. When sensory stimulation is hitting our body, we always want to be in a “green zone” for allowing us to attend and focus on a task at hand; in other words, if our bodies are not regulated, how can our mind be regulated?
Some people do not have automatic coping skills for getting their body in that “green zone” automatically. The outcome is either being under responsive (therefore seeking more sensory input) or over responsive (therefore seeking less sensory input.) Not every person is the same; not every person’s body reacts the same to sensory stimuli from the environment.
A behavior is an observable and measurable action that a person says or does; a behavior can be neutral, and not necessarily positive or negative.
The four functions of behavior include sensory regulation, escape/avoidance of a non-preferred task, seeking positive or negative attention, and receiving a tangible item. When a negative behavior occurs, it often is to achieve one of these four functions. It is important to isolate and determine the cause of the behavior; therefore, an appropriate response can extinguish a negative behavior and outcome.
Often times, a behavior can have multiple functions. A behavior may begin as a regulation purpose, which removes a demand, which eventually leads to a learned avoidance. For example, a child who begins fidgeting in class is allowed to leave and take a walk; this leads to a learned avoidance of completing work. A child who begins to complain when given chores is given 1-1 attention from an angry parent, is eventually stopped being asked to complete that chore; eventually, this leads to a learned way to receive attention and escape household demands.
Behavior and Sensory
When a behavior is linked to sensory processing, it is important to acknowledge the behavior, address the sensory regulation, and find appropriate alternatives for that child. If only the behavior is addressed, the child may continue to seek that sensory need, and therefore continue to exhibit behaviors. If only the sensory deficit is addressed, the child may associate bad behaviors with feeling “good” and therefore continue and/or increase the behaviors.
It is important to understand that not all behaviors are linked to a sensory processing deficit. It is important for a specialized Occupational Therapist to evaluate your child, guide you through scenarios, determine the causes, and provide appropriate interventions that will address your child’s sensory needs, behavior needs, and/or both simultaneously.
Every child is different, and every child has specific needs. Unfortunately, there is not a “one size fits all” procedure for intervention. However, given the appropriate tools and education, every child deserves to feel regulated, calm, happy, and confident.
Kids in Motion Pediatric Therapy clinic provides services in all areas from speech, occupational, and physical therapy to address the signs/symptoms stated above related to Sensory or Behavior.
Speech therapy will help improve your child’s communication skills by learning verbal and/or nonverbal skills. A speech therapist will engage your child in a variety of auditory and verbal stimuli such as story books, picture cards, interactive games, actual objects, etc. using different approaches and techniques to improve language skills. A speech therapist can also teach the use of an augmentative communication devices, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), and American Sign Language. These devices and techniques can improve communication by using pictures and symbols to ask and answer questions when interacting with others.
Occupational therapy will use creative therapeutic activities to increase independence and success in ADL, fine motor, visual motor, and sensory processing skills. Occupational therapist will introduce innovative methods to improve self-dressing, self-hygiene and self-feeding skills. Your child will engage in client centered activities to increase strength and coordination/control in hands and upper extremities to complete age appropriate fine motor and visual motor skills with greater success. Occupational therapist will demonstrate and educate family on variety of sensory diet strategies specific for your child’s needs to improve regulation to perform optimally in everyday activities.
Physical therapy will help improve your child’s strength, coordination, and balance through therapeutic exercise and activities to increase success in age appropriate gross motor skills. Child will also engage in tasks such as obstacle courses incorporating variety of gym equipment to improve motor planning skills. Physical therapist may target gait retraining if toe-walking is present by working on your child’s range of motion, strengthening and incorporating different sensory techniques. Consultation with an orthotist can also be provided if needed.
Still have questions and concerns?
We are committed to helping children of all abilities achieve and live their full potential. With experienced and compassionate Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapists and four locations to serve you, we feel confident that you will be more than satisfied with the care and support your child receives.
Check out our free Interactive Online Screener – once completed, it will respond with ideas to help your child in the areas you specify they might be having trouble with or contact us at 248-684-9610.