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Sensory Processing Disorders - What is it and how can Play Therapy help?

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition where the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes through the five senses i.e. touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Sensory processing issues include hypersensitivity, hyposensitivity, and sensory-seeking behaviours.

SPD is not currently recognized as a medical diagnosis, yet many children experience sensory processing issues.

Children with SPD may start to become dysregulated when they have certain sensory experiences in their daily lives, for example, the sudden or loud honking of a car or bright fluorescent lights, which most people find tolerable, for children with SPD may cause them to react very differently. This is because their brains will interpret these sensations differently.

Children with SPD may get easily distressed, appear anxious, distracted, or have meltdowns. On the flip side, a hyposensitive child might not display any signs of distress as they lack a response to the five senses. For example, they may hurt themselves without having any reaction to pain.

Sensory-seeking behaviours

Children with SPD may also display sensory-seeking behaviors such as licking or biting toys beyond the age of two years and rocking or spinning their bodies repetitively. Some children may like to feel certain textures, or repeatedly bang or drop objects to hear the sounds the objects make.

How Play Therapy Helps

The play therapy room is created based on a philosophy that puts a child at the center of it all. The toys found in the playroom consist of real-life toys, creative expression, and toys that provide emotional release. There are other types of toys such as sensory balls, fidgets, tactile manipulatives, various tactile trays (sand, rice, water beads), putty, balance boards, exercise balls, musical instruments, and bean bags to name a few. These sets of toys are great for children that are sensory-sensitive as well.

The playroom is designed to provide play therapists with the tools they need to support children and help them tune into a more regulated state. Other play therapy approaches such as AutPlay Therapy help address sensory needs by allowing the play therapist to be aware of a child’s sensory differences in the playroom. The outcomes have a lasting impact on children.

If you would like to speak to a qualified Play therapist to learn how your child could benefit from play therapy, click here to get in touch today or want to know if Play Therapy could be right for your child take our quiz!

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