Treatment Options For Sensory Processing Disorder

October 16, 2023

Sensory processing disorder affects an individual's ability to make sense of the signals given off by the central nervous system. Rather than coming together to elicit an appropriate response in the senses, these signals become disorganized, causing the patient to have to have abnormal motor or behavioral responses. The disorder may affect one or multiple senses, and the effects present differently between each patient. Sensory processing disorder is apparent in childhood, though it is often mistaken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In some instances, this condition may not be diagnosed until adulthood. Depending on the sense(s) affected, signs can include poor posture and coordination, poor tracking of visual stimuli, feeling uncomfortable with certain textures, and speech and auditory problems. Get to know the options for treating sensory processing disorder now.

Sensory Integration

Sensory integration is one of the most common treatment approaches for patients with sensory processing disorder. The theory behind this methodology is based on analyzing how the brain receives and processes information. This treatment calls upon the use of the five main senses, but also includes the proprioception, interoception, and vestibular senses. Therapy from this lens aims to assist with the malfunctioning processing complication by exposing the patient to sensory stimuli in a structured and repetitive manner. This method is based on the presumption that, over time and with regular and repetitive exposure to the stimuli, the brain will be forced to adapt and react to sensations more efficiently. Sensory integration should only be provided by a specially-trained occupational therapist.

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Psychotherapy is also commonly used in the treatment of sensory processing disorder and for a variety of reasons. First, it is surely frustrating for the child or adult to experience sensations so differently from others, and having someone to discuss it with is practical for maintaining mental health and well-being. However, patients with sensory processing disorder are also at a higher risk of developing anxiety or a mood disorder, which psychotherapy can also assist with directly. However, sensory processing disorder can be difficult to treat through counseling sessions, as it is often misdiagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Sensory processing disorder can produce symptoms that mirror those present in ADHD, such as inattentive and impulsive behaviors and social deficits. Psychotherapy is also useful for individuals who have developed a mood disorder or anxiety due to sensory processing disorder and can help these patients work through their anxiety or different moods associated with this condition.

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Vision Therapy

Sight is one of the senses very commonly affected by sensory processing disorder. Improving one's visual processing skills is the main goal of vision therapy. This is done using methods that train the brain and the eyes to work together more effectively, sending signals and eliciting appropriate responses that affect the rest of the body. Vision therapy techniques include visual arousal and eye movement exercises. These techniques and activities will assist the patient in strengthening their peripheral stability, visual space awareness, eye coordination, and visual information processing, such as reading.

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Listening Therapy

Auditory stimuli are also commonly distorted in those with sensory processing disorder, which causes abnormal responses. Listening therapy is a great way for individuals with auditory issues to stimulate their brains and attempt to build more solid connections. During the treatment, patients will listen to various sound patterns, vibrations, and frequencies while attempting to complete other motor tasks, such as walking on a straight line. This exercise stimulates the brain and improves the neurophysiological environment, better preparing it to integrate sensory input. Like other therapies used in the treatment of sensory processing disorder, this method is based on the theory of neuroplasticity, which states that repetitive exposure to stimuli can trigger long-lasting changes in the brain.

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Language And Speech Therapy

Language and speech therapy is also commonly used by occupational therapists when treating children with sensory processing disorder. This condition commonly leaves individuals with speech and language impairments, from stuttering and delays to pronunciation problems. Producing speech and language relies on the combined efforts of auditory and visual stimuli as well as motor planning. When signals get caught in the cross-firing of neurons and connections, speech can become jumbled and incoherent. When providing treatment, a speech and language therapist will develop a tailored intervention plan to address individual issues and symptoms, increasing verbal control and skills and strengthening the patient's ability to articulate. Tongue, jaw, and cheek exercises, as well as spoken activities, make up the core of treatment procedures when trying to correct speech and language pathologies.

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