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Parenting in the Rain, Episode 23

Practical Understanding of Sensory Processing Disorder

In This Episode:  

  • Lindsey Biel, MA, OTR/L, a pediatric occupational therapist in private practice, lives in New York City.
  • She describes an Occupational Therapist as a person that works with people in many areas to optimize the function of daily life skills.
  • Sensory Processing is how we transform bits of information that we get through our senses into meaningful messages in the world around us and what to do with them.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder is when there are differences in how a person’s wiring works, as well as the person is experience the world in a different way. They may experience out of proportion reactions to everyday sensory experiences.
  • Sensory challenges are seen more often in people with the following: Autism Spectrum Disorder, children born and adopted internationally from orphanages, premature babies (especially the youngest and the smallest), Down syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, ADHD, exposure to drugs and alcohol in utero, mood disorders and many others.
  • Connect the dots between behaviors and the underlying sensory issues.
  • Lindsey uses the phrase “Sensory Smarts” to describe tools and strategies to help people overcome sensory challenges.
  • When working one on one with a person, Lindsey always starts with an assessment.
  • For many people, getting a lot of deep pressure can provide the sensory input that can help them feel where their  body is on the planet.
  • Parents and therapists try to determine “how much do I push them to build tolerance and how much do I protect?”.   It’s best to do both.
  • Sometimes sounds such as the vacuum cleaner, hairdryer, cafeteria can be overwhelming to people with auditory challenges.
  • Ultimately, parents are the expert on their children.
  • Parents and teachers are an important part of empowering kids to overcome some of their sensory issues.
  • Lindsey talks about a “Sensory Diet” as a carefully and personally designed activity plan to help people feel good on a physical level and have their sensory needs met.  It helps attain balance of “not too wired, not too tired”.
  • The deep pressure work can be very helpful “organizing” kids.
  • “Toe walking” can be a result of impaired body awareness, neurological body awareness, or sensory hypersensitivity in the foot.  Interventions help by teaching them to get more comfortable with their feet and sensory input to desensitize.   If left untreated mobility issues and orthotics issues could occur.  It’s recommended to see if toe walking is a sign of something going on neurologically.
  • Lindsey provides some practical strategies to help with changing the environment – light, sound, and feelings of postural safety, oral stimulation, visuals and more…
  • School based Occupational Therapists are limited to educational related support.   Occupational therapists working outside the schools in agencies, private practice, and homes can provide a wide array of services.
  • There are online resources for parents that can be really helpful to find support.  Links to Lindsey’s facebook communities and her website are below.






Lindsey Describes Sensory Processing Disorder in a Video

Article on Supporting Sensory Processing Issues written by Lindsey Biel