Sensory profiling

Last month we embarked on a new part of our journey through Autism. It was time to test Jayden’s sensory profiling. Jayden’s life, just like any child on the spectrum, is a constant round-a-bout of tests, questions and uncertainty. We are so grateful to D.O.T.S Occupational Therapy for Children for explaining this process to us in plain English – and for also providing strategies on how to move forward.

Many parents may be asking what is ‘sensory profiling’? That’s a great question – as I myself asked that question not so long ago. It is generally a profile of what sensory factors affect Jayden in his day-to-day tasks.

Sometimes I just stare at Jayden because I love watching him and the way his mind works. It is so fascinating. For a 6-year-old boy, he has a lot going on in his little head – and the sensory profiling was undertaken to help us and his teachers understand some of the different types of processing he experiences every single day. It also helps us see why some ‘simple’ tasks may not be so simple for him, and what we can do to help him. We are learning what a lot of this means, but below is some terminology for others going through a similar journey.

(1) Tactile Processing (Touch)

This looks at how the brain and sensory system register all inputs that touch the skin/body. This may mean people on the spectrum like or dislike touch more or less than others. Things like being distressed when cutting nails, putting on socks or just moving away when people unexpectedly touch them. It may also mean that others seek touch and actively touch surfaces and/or textures more than others.

(2) Oral Sensory Processing

This may affect the foods people eat as oral sensory profile relates to the feel of food in their mouth or temperature. This may mean that they avoid eating certain foods purely because of how it feels.

(3) Auditory Processing

This is how someone takes in all the noises around them and how the brain differentiates the sounds (for example background noise in the classroom). This is why sometimes children on the spectrum cover their ears when noises are too much to bear, or can seem to be distracted, but they are not distracted they are just processing one noise over another. This is why sometimes children on the spectrum seem ‘distracted’ or cannot focus on a task, but a lot of time it is because of their own auditory processing that there are background noises which a person may find difficult to distinguish between the important noise compared to the background noise.

(4) Visual Processing

This is whether the brain can filter what is important to look at and what is a distraction. For example, sometimes children on the spectrum will stare at visual details on toys or

be more bothered by bright lights, or not see an obvious object if there are other visual things distracting them. This is one that has always fascinated me, as sometimes whilst I am out and about I think I am looking around, but it is only when Jayden points out the smallest objects that I actually see that I am not really looking at objects to appreciate the finer details. Sometimes we miss the most features around us because we are too busy to really look, whereas sometimes for Jayden, looking at the finer details can be distracting and take a lot of focus to ‘move on’ and look at the important features rather than all the features.

Other areas of sensory processing, include their body awareness (proprioception) and balance and spatial orientation (the vestibular sense). This is about the way they move around, when sometimes they trip or lose balance (and people may think they are ‘clumsy’.

To me it’s exhausting just thinking about all this, so I can’t begin to imagine how Jayden must be feeling. But with strategies, therapists, and an understanding school, we get through it one day at a time.

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