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Children's Health

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Sensory Processing Disorder

Treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder

Many families with an affected child find that it is hard to get help. That's because sensory processing disorder isn't a recognized medical diagnosis at this time.

Despite the lack of widely accepted diagnostic criteria, occupational therapists commonly see and treat children and adults with sensory processing problems.

Treatment depends on a child's individual needs. But in general, it involves helping children do better at activities they're normally not good at and helping them get used to things they can't tolerate.

Treatment for sensory processing problems is called sensory integration. The goal of sensory integration is to challenge a child in a fun, playful way so he or she can learn to respond appropriately and function more normally.

One type of therapy is called the Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based (DIR) model. The therapy was developed by Stanley Greenspan, MD, and Serena Wieder, PhD.

A major part of this therapy is the "floor-time" method. The method involves multiple sessions of play with the child and parent. The play sessions last about 20 minutes.

During the sessions, parents are first asked to follow the child's lead, even if the playtime behavior isn't typical. For example, if a child is rubbing the same spot on the floor over and over, the parent does the same. These actions allow the parent to "enter" into the child's world.

This is followed by a second phase, where parents use the play sessions to create challenges for the child. The challenges help pull the child into what Greenspan calls a "shared" world with the parent. And the challenges create opportunities for the child to master important skills in areas such as:

  • Relating
  • Communicating
  • Thinking

The sessions are tailored to the child's needs. For instance, if the child tends to under-react to touch and sound, the parent needs to be very energetic during the second phase of the play sessions. If the child tends to overreact to touch and sound, the parent will need to be more soothing.

These interactions will help the child move forward and, DIR therapists believe, help with sensory issues as well.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Anita Schroff, MD on July 07, 2015
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