New Treatment Possible For Kids With Sensory Processing Disorder

Fragile X syndrome in children is characterized by learning and cognitive impairments and usually falls under the category of Sensory Processing Disorder (or SPD). It can leave kids mentally handicapped, but new research will provide parents with hope for their kids. According to a study done by the journal Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, a medicine that helps regulate cyclic adenosine monophosphate (or cAMP) might help reduce or eliminate symptoms of SPD.

More than 90 percent of those on the autism spectrum will experience symptoms of SPD. This can leave patients with more or less sensitivity to sights, sounds, textures, and tastes. Patients will usually become uncomfortable or experience increased levels of agitation and anxiety.

Fragile X occurs when the corresponding mental retardation protein (FMRP) is deficient because of a gene mutation. This mutation leads to a variety of problems–obstacles that kids and their parents must learn to navigate around. In the study, scientists used fruit flies to find out whether or not pharmacological options might pose a solution. The mutated fruit flies experienced an improved response time versus normal flies.

The medicines that might eventually be used to help those with fragile X syndrome are well known among the medical community. Dipyridamole is typically used to help relieve patients who have blood clots, and lithium is a controversial yet powerful drug used to combat bipolar disorder or extreme depression. Lithium can also be used in conjunction with a number of other drugs to treat schizophrenia and other mental disorders. That these drugs might also help those with SPD was previously unknown.

Because there are a number of genes linked to the autism spectrum and SPD in general, a lot of research focuses on how to manage symptoms instead of how to eliminate them altogether. Right now researchers would like to conduct human trials to see how fragile X patients respond to drugs that regulate cAMP signaling.

October was Sensory Awareness Month, so this ray of light couldn’t have come at a better time. This is a great time to raise awareness for those suffering from SPD or similar behavioral and developmental disorders through outreach, fundraising, donation, and personal involvement.

What Is Touch Pressure?

Parents of children with SPD are often looking for ways to improve the lives of their children in every way possible. While it is a very hard concept considering that SPD research is minimal at best, we believe that there are certain methods of therapy that will allow parents to rest assured that they are helping their children as much as possible.

One version of assistance that we see many therapists suggest is “Deep Touch Pressure.” Deep touch pressure is a mode of therapy (or intervention) that has a focus on improving your child’s sensory modulation by reducing their responses to distracting stimuli. As you probably know by now, sensory modulation is a term used to describe the characteristics of a person who over-responds, under-responds, or fluctuates their responses to sensory inputs in a way that is disproportional to the input.

Sensory modulation affects everything from children who struggle to focus on tasks, sit down on a chair, or stay in the same place for a significant amount of time. This lack of focus is not simply your child having a “short attention span”, but it could be your child responding to the stimuli around them instead of staying focused on the task at hand. For example, it might be hard for them to sit down and stay still if they hear all of their peers sitting down, scooting their chairs, whispering, etc.

Children with SPD get distracted by many things, because their bodies respond to stimuli differently than most. As we have touched upon in previous articles, the best way to address this is to help your children form good habits, not to chastise the bad ones.

With that in mind, deep touch therapy focuses on diverting your child’s attention away from the stimuli around them and directing it to the task at hand. One method of deep touch therapy is a “pressure vest,” which can be worn all day. While it might not seem like much, the pressure from the vest will reduce purposeless hyperactivity, self-stimulatory behaviors, and increase balance and stability.

Since children with SPD often have different reactions and perceptions to sensory inputs, having something like pressure vest, a weighted blanked, or a weighted lap pad can neutralize everything that is going on around them and get them to focus on the task at hand. It is not a panacea for all of their struggles, but it certainly helps when it comes to getting them to focus on one thing at a time.

As always, we encourage you to talk to a medical professional before making important decisions like whether you want to engage in deep touch therapy for your child. You need to weigh every option for your loved one, because it is not just your well-being at hand. If you have any questions about where you should go if deep touch therapy doesn’t work, please don’t worry. There are many methods, and every child is different. Stay tuned, we will be back with more soon!

What Is Heavy Work And How Does It Help With SPD?

Proprioceptive input, or “heavy work“, happens when we perform tasks that involve heavy resistance for the muscles and joints. It is absolutely essential for assimilating and processing both movement and touch information.

Heavy work is generally broken down into three types: whole body, oral, and hands. Whole body heavy work includes pushing and pulling (doors, shopping carts, etc), walking, and playing. Oral heavy work includes sucking, chewing, talking, and other similar actions. Hand heavy work includes activities like gripping, squeezing, or fidgeting.

Now that we have the definition of heavy work out of the way, it is important to consider how heavy work helps children (and adults) with SPD. As you already know, SPD is a disorder in which the affected have trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.

Heavy work helps children with SPD get to a “normal” sensory level in many ways. It is important to recognize that there are two main attributes of SPD: receiving and responding to information that the brain sends it. Heavy work gets their bodies and senses used to certain movements, cadences, and levels of exertion so they are able to perform at a better level in the future.

Experts in NYC like to think of heavy work as a training regimen for your children, or a way to gauge how their body responds to different forces. Children with SPD generally have issues responding to the environment around them in the correct way, whether it is closing doors too hard or not chewing food hard enough. By getting them used to activities every day, you will train their bodies to be used to the levels of stress they will encounter daily.

For example, it might be frustrating that your child always breaks the tip of their pencil when they write. Instead of giving them a keyboard to type, it is better to give them different hand heavy works to develop their skills. Once their hands are accustomed to how to respond to all different type of products (pens, markers, etc.), then they will have an easier time with pencils.

This concept applies to children with SPD, as their entire concept of their sensory perception needs to be constantly worked on. Simple tasks like pushing shopping carts or playing with a fidget spinner can help them learn how to interact with their environment properly and without doing any harm to themselves.

Heavy work is the “teach a man to fish” of the SPD world. By letting children do heavy work during the day, you are letting them get more and more accustomed to the world around them and how they perceive it. Instead of coddling them and protecting them from their environment, it is of the utmost importance that you teach them how to do as much as they can.

If you would like to learn more about heavy work, please check out the video below. As always, we encourage you to reach out to us if you have any questions about SPD or how you would introduce a heavy work regimen to your child.