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Think it might be FASD?

Article: Sensory Processing and FASD

Strategies for Sensory-Related Challenges

Many children impacted by an FASD will have what is often called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID), affecting their behavior. Here’s what sensory-related behaviors may look like and how to handle them.

Sensory Issues

SPDs or SIDs occur when the brain misreads information from the following senses:

  • Sight
  • Hearing
  • Taste
  • Touch/Tactile
  • Smell
  • Proprioceptive (feedback from muscles, movement and body position)
  • Vestibular (balance and movement)

Some common sensory-related behaviors can look like:

  • Avoids bare feet on sand or grass
  • Takes off clothing
  • Chews on clothing
  • Avoids foods because of smell or texture
  • Refuses to wear certain clothing, turns socks inside out
  • Gagging, spitting or biting
  • Clumsy and breaks things
  • Tantrums or rages
  • Public meltdowns
  • Whining
  • Sleep and calming problems
  • Touching people and objects constantly

Occupational therapists can be a tremendous help in addressing problems related to sensory processing disorders. An evaluation for OT services will likely include a sensory profile you’ll need to fill out related to your child’s sensory seeking or sensory avoiding behaviors. The sensory profile can help you reframe behaviors as brain differences instead of defiant or willful behaviors.

Strategies for the Senses

Sight

If you’re noticing that your child may have processing difficulty related to sight, try these accommodations:

  • Try different lighting (natural or lamp lighting vs. fluorescent)
  • Try using different colors of paper or ink
  • Use graph or raised line paper to help line up math problems
  • Break down steps and provide directions both in written form and visual form
  • Use color coding to organize or identify personal items
  • Provide picture charts for daily routines
  • Provide a comfort item a child can focus on
  • Provide a calm and safe place to retreat to when overwhelmed
  • Work with an occupational therapist to better regulate sensory-related behaviors
  • Have an eye exam to rule out actual vision problems
Hearing

If you’re noticing that your child may have processing difficulty related to hearing, try these accommodations:

  • Use headphones when they need to concentrate – either sound deafening or headphones with music, depending on the child’s need
  • Leave an environment that becomes over-stimulating (mall, church, school lunchroom)
  • Speak clearly and slowly using only the words that are necessary (avoid long, drawn-out speeches or lectures)
  • Listen. You might discover that your child’s refusal to use public bathrooms is related to the loud, echoing flushes or that their aversion to going to church is not a matter of faith but rather a lack of tolerance for organ music
  • Ask your child to tell you what they just heard
  • Work with an occupational therapist to better regulate sensory-related behaviors
  • Enlist the help of a speech-language professional
  • Have child’s hearing checked to rule out actual hearing problems or other medical conditions related to the ears
Taste

If you’re noticing that your child may have processing difficulty related to taste, try these accommodations:

  • Build on food preferences and slowly introduce new related foods to already tolerated foods
  • Use praise, not punishment.  If they tolerated it on their plate, touched it, licked it or even smelled it, remark on the progress they made in “trying” something new
  • Use vibrating toothbrushes and massaging chew toys or oral motor tools if tolerated
  • Chewing gum or licorice, crunching on veggies, or sucking thick milkshakes through a straw might provide some delicious calming
  • Never punish biting behaviors by biting a child back. Provide appropriate chewy alternatives and supervision
  • Introduce new foods during the best time of your child’s day (broccoli for breakfast, anyone?)
  • Work with an occupational therapist to better regulate sensory-related behaviors
  • Talk with your medical professional about vitamins or supplements if nutrition is a concern