SubType 3: Sensory Discrimination Disorder

Children that suffer from sensory discrimination disorder often have a hard time perceiving information. Discrimination is the brain’s ability to interpret information and disregards irrelevant information. A disorder of discrimination means the brain sometimes jumbles or confused environmental stimuli.

Each of the 8 senses has their own discrimination disorder and a child with this subtype of SPD can have any combination of all 8 discrimination disorders.

Tactile Discrimination Disorder – a child that suffers from this is not able to process things that they touch, they must be able to see it.

Some common signs of tactile discrimination disorder include:

  • unaware of being touched
  • unable to identify objects through touch
  • unable to describe a texture via touching

Gustatory/Oral Discrimination Disorder – usually happens in conjunction with olfactory discrimination

Common signs of oral discrimination disorder include:

  • unable to distinguish taste and texture while eating
  • unable to distinguish temperature of food

Olfactory Discrimination Disorder – usually happens in conjunction with gustatory/oral discrimination

Common signs of olfactory discrimination disorder include:

  • unable to identify the source of odors
  • unable able to identify smells (like something burning)

Auditory Discrimination Disorder – children who suffer from this disorder are sometimes misdiagnosed with ADHD or get in trouble for never listening. When a child suffers from this disorder they have a very hard time separating background noise from the noise of a teacher or parent.

Common signs of auditory discrimination disorder include:

  • unable to determine who is speaking
  • frequently mistakes sounds in language for homophones (for example, cars and cards, Arizona or around the corner)
  • difficulty following verbal instructions
  • talking too loud or too quietly
  • appears to ignore others

Visual Discrimination Disorder – children who suffer from this have a hard time reading emotions and recognizing patterns and letters

Common signs of visual discrimination disorder include:

  • difficulty in distinguishing between colors
  • difficulty in distinguishing between shapes
  • difficulty in identify objects that are slightly hidden
  • poor depth perception
  • difficulty in knowing left from right
  • difficulty distinguishing similar letters like p, q, g, b, and d.
  • lining up numbers in a math problem

Vestibular Discrimination Disorder – children who suffer from this is unaware of where his body is in the space around him

Common signs of vestibular discrimination disorder include:

  • difficulty determining head or body position
  • poor perception of elevation
  • poor posture
  • clumsiness
  • constant falling and being unable to stop self
  • gets disoriented easily

Proprioceptive Discrimination Disorder – children who suffer from this are unable to determine how much for is required to interact with an object

Common signs of proprioceptive discrimination disorder include:

  • unaware of how much force needed to pick or hold an object
  • constantly slamming doors or not closing them tight enough
  • breaks utensils
  • roughhousing to the point of someone getting hurt
  • unable to judge how much force to use throwing a ball

Interoceptive Discrimination Disorder

  • unable to tell when hungry, thirsty, full or quenched
  • unable to tell the difference between hunger and nausea
  • unable to determine the necessity of using the bathroom
  • unaware of being out of breath

Unlike over-responsiveness and under-responsiveness, discrimination disorders are harder to pinpoint and are frequently misdiagnosed due to the behavior problems associated with school. However, there are many ways to help your child, such as signging them up for occupational therapy.

SubType 2: Sensory-Based Motor Disorder

Children with Sensory Based Motor Disorder have a hard time coordinating their brains and the bodies. Normally, the brain receives sensory messages (sensory input) and produces an adaptive response (motor output). When a child suffers from Sensory Based Motor Disorder, they respond incorrectly to the surrounding environment whether it’s by not understanding the space around them or inability to move the body in the right way.

There are two different types of Sensory Based Motor Disorder:

  1. Dyspraxia
  2. Postural Disorder

Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia comes from the two Latin words “praxis” to do and “dys” badly. Children that suffer from this condition have a hard time processing environmental stimuli and following through with a motor action. They will usually have poor motor coordination, timing, planning, organizing, and sequencing. Most kids will prefer sedentary activities and be more imaginative to hide their lack of physical skills as compared to their classmates.

Common symptoms of dyspraxia include:

  • difficulty handling scissors, eating utensils and other hand held devices
  • difficulting buttoning, zipping and other fine motor activities
  • difficulty dressing themselves
  • illegible handwriting
  • poor hand eye coordination
  • difficulty navigating through a crowd
  • inability to learn complex sequence of movement
  • anxiety walking up or down stairs
  • visual perception issues including crossing the midline (taking left hand and putting it on the right shoulder or reading from left to right)

Postural Disorder

Postural disorder deals with the child’s ability to operate their muscles and move their own bodies successfully. Children usually have difficulty keeping their body on task while moving or keeping their body still at rest.

Common symptoms of postural disorder include:

  • frequently drooling or inability to keep things in the mouth while eating
  • not chewing food thoroughly
  • poor depth perception
  • difficulty focusing eyes
  • terrible aim when reaching for objects
  • poor sports performance
  • difficulty maintaining balance for long periods of time
  • frequently leaning on furniture or wall
  • very clumsy
  • sits in awkward positions
  • low muscle tone
  • difficulty using the rest room

These issues are important to address at an early age because children who suffer from Sensory Based Motor Disorders often feel isolated. It is common for children to not relate with peers because they cannot perform the same physical tasks as others such as climbing the monkey bars.

Here are some activities that you can do to help with Sensory Based Motor Disorder:

  • improve core muscle strength by bending, flexing, stretching and rotating
  • increase activity endurance by walking to school, walking to local stores, going for a bike ride on the weekends, trampoline time before dinner
  • improving balance by standing on one while brushing teeth or other activities where they would be standing
  • increase access to sports that don’t involve hand eye coordination such as swimming, horse riding, martial arts, pilates or even gymnastics
  • improve social participation by signing them up for classes to help develop self-esteem and reduce isolation
  • improve diet – find textures (soft or crunchy) and colors of foods that your child enjoys so you can make sure they are getting the proper nutrition and a balanced diet

SubType 1: Sensory Modulation Disorder

The definition of sensory modulation is the brain’s capability to respond in the correct fashion to the surrounding environmental stimuli and the ability to remain at the correct level of responsiveness. In the most basic form, sensory modulation is how we make sense of the physical world and how we place ourself within that world. We do this by using our 8 senses previously mentioned in earlier blog articles.

Typically, sensory modulation happens automatically, without thinking and without any effort. Our brains take in stimuli, filters out irrelevant stimuli and our muscles perform the correct actions accordingly. But if your child is suffering from Sensory Modulation Disorder, the process isn’t as automatic and requires effort. The perception of the stimuli gets muddled and the child’s corresponding action seems illogical.

Within Sensory Modulation Disorder there are three main types:

  1. Over-responsiveness
  2. Under-responsiveness
  3. Sensory Seeking

Over-Responsiveness

Over-responsiveness is categorized as an exaggerated response of the nervous system to sensory input. One common type of over-responsivity is motion sickness. People who are over-sensitivity to their vestibular sense may develop motion sickness as a response to fast movement. During an over-responsiveness behavior, the nervous system goes into “fight or flight” mode even when there is no real danger present but the brain perceives it as such. They feel as if they are being constantly bombarded with information.

Common symptoms of over-responsiveness behavior include:

  • as infants: fussy, startles easily, delayed motor skills, doesn’t like to be held
  • picky eating habits
  • in regards to clothing: doesn’t like tags or certain fabrics
  • dislikes washing hair, combing hair, brushing teeth
  • overwhelmed in crowds and noisy environments like New York City

Under-Responsiveness

Under-responsiveness is the opposite of over-responsiveness. This is the lack of response to environmental stimuli. Children might be “checked out” or “day dreaming”. Or they are very unfocused on what is happening around them. They also tend to be uncoordinated and may have difficulty with fine motor skills.

Common symptoms of under-responsiveness behavior include:

  • as infants: delayed motor skills development, drooling, lack of response to sight and sounds
  • love spicy and salty foods
  • unkempt and messy
  • distant, daydreaming, checked out
  • overweight
  • high pain tolerance, doesn’t notice cuts or bruises
  • low muscles tone, bad posture
  • clumsiness

Sensory Seeking

The nervous system of a sensory seeking child needs intense and frequent input in order for the sensation to even be processed by the brain.

Common symptoms for sensory seeking behavior include:

  • as infants: love movement, roughhousing, happiest in stimulating environments
  • crave salty, spicy, sticky or crunchy food
  • always in motion
  • throws self on the ground
  • runs, skips or jumps rather than walks
  • difficulty sitting still
  • touches everything, puts things in mouth
  • poor attention span

If you feel that your child is suffering from Sub Type 1 of Sensory Processing Disorder: Sensory Modulation Disorder, then you should contact an occupational therapist. In a fun and safe atmosphere, you can work on sensory integration therapy to help them with their difficulties. If these issues are not addressed early on adults with Sensory Modulation Disorder can develop depression, anxiety, mood swings and become reclusive.