Sensory Integration

The Underactive Child

Are you concerned your child may have sensory integration dysfunction (sensory processing disorder)? This is where she is unable to process the transmitted information from her senses accurately. Although children can have either overactive or underactive sensory systems with this disorder, many are under sensitive to particular stimuli, which causes them to look for intense sensory experiences.

To maintain an alert and calm state, your child’s vestibular activity needs to be well-modulated. Your child’s vestibular system helps in keeping her nervous system’s level of arousal balanced. When her vestibular system (inner ear sense receptors) is underactive, it leads to distractibility and hyperactivity.

Ways to Help Your Underactive Child

Your child may be challenged with everyday tasks that other children seem to take in stride. She may struggle with anxiety, depression, motor clumsiness, school failure, behavioral problems and other challenges that can seriously impact their life if left untreated. Some things you can do to help include:

Talk with Your Child

Even though some situations that can trigger problems with her behavior can’t be avoided, you can still talk with your child letting her know what she can expect when the situation arises. Although she will likely still react, her reaction might not be as exaggerated as it would with an unexpected situation that arouses her behavior.

Provide Calming Activities

Activities that calm your child activates your child’s vestibular system. The can help to her brain process and organize information effectively. Things you can do include:

  • Slow, gentle rocking in a hammock or rocking chair.
  • Make a comfortable area for her to retreat to, like a small tent filled with bean chairs, pillows and blankets.
  • Provide her with a soothing environment (calming wall colors, dimming the lights, lava lamps, rhythmic music, etc.).

A pediatric occupational therapist can work with your child by providing her with sensory integration therapy. This type of therapy involves therapeutic techniques in a safe and comforting environment while focusing on the activities that challenge your child’s sensory input

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