Sensory processing issues in children with learning difficulties.
Children with learning issues very often seem to have difficulties with sensory processing. It has been observed that at least 6 out of every 10 kids go in for an Occupational therapy functional assessment have poor sensory processing.
Sensory integration is a neurological process wherein the brain receives information from the senses and then produces an appropriate response. It is by virtue of this process that we make sense of what is happening around us.
When children have a deficit in processing information adequately, they may lack the necessary sub skills of coordinating two halves of the body, eye hand coordination, crossing the midline, fine motor coordination, balance, body awareness and the like.
All classroom activities like reading, writing, listening, comprehension, analysis, memory and retention, mathematical computation, art and crafts, following instructions, and sports performance require certain skills. Academic success is largely dependent on the physical skills of learning like the visual, auditory, perceptual and fine motor skills. These physical skills of learning are by products of good sensory processing and functioning.
When children struggle with learning, it is observed that it is often the key sub skills required to accomplish true learning are missing.
What does lack of good sensory processing in these children look like?
Toddlers and pre schoolers.
➢ Confused or mixed dominance (poor right left awareness)
➢ Increased activity levels, “always on the go”
➢ Clumsy and disorganized child
➢ Frequently bumps into objects or trips/ stumbles or falls
➢ Poor balance and postural control
➢ Frequent mouthing of objects
➢ Difficulty staying on the mat in ‘circle time’
➢ Difficulty following instructions in a group
➢ Difficulty with pre writing skills and fine motor control.
➢ Poor emotional regulation and excessive crying
➢ Difficulty imitating action songs and playing imitation games.
Primary Years :
➢ Poor speed and legibility of writing
➢ Poor or slouched sitting postures
➢ Tends to zone out or “ switch off” indicating attention and focus issues.
➢ Difficulty copying from the board
➢ Incomplete assignments
➢ Difficulty tying shoe laces and buttoning
➢ Difficulty eating with a fork and knife
➢ Poor alignment and organization of written text
➢ Difficulty following complex multiple step commands
➢ Poor self worth and self esteem
➢ Refusal to participate in group games with peers
➢ Gross motor skills that are not age appropriate, thus cannot participate in sport activities.
➢ Too much pressure while writing or then strokes are too light to be read.
Middle years and High school:
➢ May experience bullying in the class or the play ground due to differentiated skills
➢ Easily frustrated when asked to complete tasks
➢ Disorganised personal and work environments
➢ Strong emotional reactions to failures and does not want to re try
➢ Fixed and routine way of doing things
➢ Difficulty meeting deadlines and working around structure.
A comprehensive and holistic approach by a trained professional would help the child optimize their innate potentials. Combining techniques from Sensory integration, Educational Kinesiology and Brain Gym, therapeutic listening and other listening programs along with remedial education sessions would be ideal for helping for children with their learning issues.
After all, learning problems are not just all just in the mind!! It is a combination of bodily skills and mental abilities. Optimal