For children with autism, sensory issues can hinder day-to-day life until diagnosed properly. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to parse out sensory dysfunction from compound behavioral issues or delays. Once we begin to examine specific sensory issues and ways to identify them early, it gives children with autism a better chance to be properly diagnosed and ultimately succeed.
If you believe your child with ASD may be suffering from sensory issues, we’ve created a guide to help you identify signs and symptoms you should report to your child’s doctor or ABA therapist.
What are Sensory Issues?
Sensory issues are difficulties your child might experience with stimuli involving any of the senses or related perceptive processing. These can include:
Sensory processing issues are typically recognized during the early years of childhood as parents notice that their children act differently than neurotypical children around certain stimuli. With enough adverse reactions, these behaviors may even qualify as sensory processing disorder (SPD) – however, a child having a sensory issue is not always SPD.
Read More: How to Help your Neurotypical Child Cope
Regardless of the qualification, each of these issues often requires intensives and specific treatment. The first step to getting your child the proper help is identifying what specific sensory issues they may have.
Common Sensory Issues in Children with Autism
Sensory issues are diagnosed at a significantly higher rate among children with autism – to the degree that in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association added them to the list of symptoms that help diagnose autism.
There are many types of sensory issues for children with autism, but the most common ones are classified as hyper-sensitivities or hypo-sensitivities to commonly experienced stimuli.
- Issues with balance, depth perception, or dexterity
- Disliking food due to smell or texture
- Discomfort from normal sound exposure
- Difficulty being in bright lights
- Clothes feeling itchy or constricting
- Physical touch causing recoil
- Trouble recognizing social cues
- Seeking consistent risk or thrill (such as jumping off swings)
- Not recognizing personal space
- Seeking constant visual or auditory stimulation
- Can’t sit still or has trouble sleeping
- Able to spin without getting dizzy
These symptoms are often hidden by larger behavioral issues. The reality is that sensory sensitivity in kids can be the driving force behind many developmental delays or problem behaviors a child with autism exhibits, and getting an early and accurate diagnosis can help guide effectual treatments.
How to Help a Child with Sensory Issues
Many sensory issues can and will be addressed within an ABA framework for autism treatment as part of broader programs. Many problematic or persistent sensory issues may require individual treatments on their own, including:
- Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapists often work hand-in-hand with autism centers to use physical activities and strategies to help children better address sensory input in their daily lives.
- Speech Therapy: Speech therapy is very common for both under and over-stimulation, including chewing and other muscle movements of the jaw. SLPs are also a common partnering therapist to ABA autism clinics.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapists or clinicians can work to gradually increase tolerance to certain stimuli or help a child with autism interact with other stimuli they are typically ignoring.
- Sensory Diet: A sensory diet is a prescriptive group of sensory-focused activities that your child will use in their daily life. These could include walks in the park, playing games, or trying different foods at certain times. Each sensory diet is unique to your child, and is designed to add additional time that your child can spend working on sensory issues outside of a clinical setting.
Sensory issue treatment is an extremely personalized process, and therapists and clinicians are only part of the team needed to properly help your child. Parents, caretakers, and educators all must be aware of any potential issues and work to properly document and address them. From there, the data and solutions can be created in a clinic or alongside an ABA framework for autism.
Early intervention is one of the most important elements of treating sensory issues, so please do not hesitate to speak with your child’s pediatrician, therapist, or clinician if you believe your child might be suffering from a sensory disorder.
Treat Sensory Issues for Children with Ally Pediatric
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, we are committed to helping children with autism and their families live life to the fullest. This includes integrated and comprehensive treatment for sensory issues that are developed uniquely for your child by one of our licensed clinicians. If you believe your child may be suffering from sensory issues, the time to act is now. Please reach out to us for a free consultation so we can ensure your child’s growth and success today.