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The Role of the Senses. Sensory Processing/Integration Disorder & Autism Jessica Nyberg, B.S. The Senses at a Glance. Tactile- touch (cold, hard, dull, pain, hot) Proprioceptive- where our body parts are in relation to each other and how they are moving

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the role of the senses

The Role of the Senses

Sensory Processing/Integration Disorder & Autism

Jessica Nyberg, B.S.

the senses at a glance
The Senses at a Glance
  • Tactile- touch (cold, hard, dull, pain, hot)
  • Proprioceptive- where our body parts are in relation to each other and how they are moving
  • Vestibular- where our bodies are in space, whether we or our surroundings are moving, tells about speed and direction of moving
  • Auditory- sound
  • Visual- sight
  • Olfactory- smell
what is sensory processing
What is Sensory Processing?
  • The ability to receive sensory messages & organize them effortlessly into the “right” behavioral & physiological responses
  • Example: The smell of burning food from the kitchen
    • Automatic behavioral response: stop what we are presently doing to check food
    • Automatic physiological response: our heart rate increases & develop a fine sweat
what is sensory processing disorder
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
  • When sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses and daily routines and activities are disrupted as a result
  • Example: At a playground, a child loses his balance and begins to fall
    • His nervous system doesn’t recognize the sensory input that he’s falling
    • He doesn’t put his arms out to break his fall
    • Possibility of resulting injury
levels of responsiveness
Levels of Responsiveness
  • Under-Responsive, “hyposensitive”:
    • Exhibits less of a response to sensory information, takes longer to respond to sensory input, or requires more intense or long-lasting sensory input before they are moved to action
  • Over-Responsive, “hypersensitive”:
    • Respond more intensely, more quickly, and/or for a longer time to sensory information
levels of responsiveness6
Levels of Responsiveness
  • Sensory Seeking
    • Having a nearly insatiable craving for sensory experiences and actively seeking sensation, often in ways that are not socially acceptable
    • Easily confused with ADHD
    • If unable to seek out sensations, may become aggressive or angry
mix n match
Mix ‘n Match
  • Can have a variety of senses affected
  • Mixture of hyposensitivity, hypersensitivity, and/or sensory seeking
  • Soooo…
    • Can be hypersensitive with some senses, hyposensitive with others, and/or sensory seeking with other senses
pop quiz
  • What are the senses again…?
    • Tactile?
    • Vestibular?
    • Proprioception?
what s the big deal
What’s the Big Deal?
  • Dysfunctioning senses lead to problems with…
    • Attention & Learning
    • Sleep
    • Eating
    • Social interaction
    • Health & Safety
    • Life in the Community
    • ANXIETY levels
signs symptoms proprioception
Signs & Symptoms: Proprioception
  • Hypersensitive
    • Does not like being upside down
    • Has trouble manipulating small objects
    • Avoids weight-bearing activities like running & jumping
  • Hyposensitive
    • unaware of bodily sensations (hunger, need for bathroom)
    • bumps into or leans on people/objects
  • Sensory Seeking
    • constantly moving
    • seeks out rough-housing
signs symptoms vestibular
Signs & Symptoms: Vestibular
  • Hypersensitive
    • Does not enjoy playing on swings or slides
    • Has difficulty walking on unstable or uneven surfaces
    • Fearful of heights
    • Difficulty with stairs
  • Hyposensitive
    • May not notice when falling & not extend hands or feet to protect himself
    • Doesn’t get dizzy easily
  • Sensory Seeking
    • Seeks out swinging or sliding
    • Adventurous- climbers & jumpers
    • Partakes in body rocking
    • Has trouble sitting still
signs symptoms tactile
Signs & Symptoms: Tactile
  • Hypersensitive (Does NOT like):
    • Certain textures/clothing (wool, fur, jeans, carpet)
    • Having messy hands (glue, dirt, stickiness)
    • Having hair or nails cut
    • Certain food textures
    • Hugs or being touched
  • Hyposensitive
    • Doesn’t seem to notice getting hurt
  • Sensory Seeking
    • Constantly touching objects
    • Mouths objects
    • Prone to self-injury (hand biting, head banging)
    • Likes pressure & tight clothes
    • Enjoy hugs & roughhousing
signs symptoms visual
Signs & Symptoms: Visual
  • Hypersensitive
    • Does not like bright lights
    • Distracted by irrelevant or small details
    • Avoids direct eye contact
  • Hyposensitive
    • Experience trouble figuring out what or where objects are
  • Sensory Seeking
    • Fixates (“stims”) on moving parts or fingers
    • Stare at bright lights or reflections
signs symptoms auditory
Signs & Symptoms: Auditory
  • Hypersensitive
    • Does not like loud noises (vacuum, malls)
    • Scared of unexpected noises (bells, sirens, alarms)
    • Distracted by background noise in a classroom
    • Will cover their ears
    • Make repetitive noises to cover other disturbing noises
  • Hyposensitive
    • doesn’t respond to name
  • Sensory Seeking
    • likes high TV and music volume
    • create sounds themselves for stimulation (tapping, banging, humming)
hypersensitivity in their own words
Hypersensitivity In Their Own Words
  • “There are certain things I touch that hurt my hands…There are times when I walk and the air brushing past my hands is a source of pain.”
  • “The fear and anticipation of noises that hurt the ears is often the cause of many bad behaviors and tantrums.”
  • “I hate to feel my own skin against itself. This means I have to wear pajamas to bed or put a sheet in between my legs so they do not come into direct contact with each other.”
hypersensitivity how we can help
Hypersensitivity: How we can help
  • PAY ATTENTION- ID disturbing stimuli & reduce, eliminate, or provide sensory aids
  • Desensitize by providing a sensory diet (small amounts of exposure)
  • Monitor the number of simultaneous stimuli & reduce irrelevant stimuli
  • If possible, warn or prime a child about upcoming situations (fire alarms, trip to the malls)
  • Self-calming: provide a “get away” space to retreat to when overwhelmed with calming activities available
environmental changes for the hypersensitive child
Environmental Changes for the Hypersensitive Child
  • Tactile: select textures for clothing, bedding, towels, upholstery, and carpet that are not uncomfortable for the child
  • Proprioceptive: provide tools for heavy work
    • Jungle gym, trampoline, weighted vest
  • Vestibular: provide equipment for slow and rhythmic stimulation
    • Rocking chair, glider
  • Visual: soft lighting, muted colors, organized & uncluttered
  • Auditory: provide a background of “white noise” or calming music (headphones), prime a child before loud noises (fire alarm, vacuum)
hyposensitivity in their own words
Hyposensitivity in Their Own Words
  • “My senses would sometimes become dull to the point that I could not clearly see or hear, and the world around me would seemingly cease to exist.”
  • “Oftentimes, I would be aware that my body hurt somewhere, but I would be unable to pinpoint what was hurting.”
  • “I never knew my relative position in the surrounding or situation…I had no concept of my body. My hands were mere objects which I used to pick and throw.”
environmental changes for the hyposensitive child
Environmental Changes for the Hyposensitive Child
  • Vestibular: provide equipment for fast/rotary movement
    • Self-spinning devices, swings, mini-trampoline
  • Tactile: use direct tactile stimulation throughout the day, used textured towels, different seating textures, noticeable textured clothing
  • Proprioceptive: heavy work, jungle gym, weighted vests, exercise bands, mini-trampoline
  • Visual: bright room colors, many & bright lights, visually stimulating décor
  • Auditory: changing background noise, avoid monotonous sounds
  • Self-alerting: gum chewing, sour candy, exercise ball instead of a chair
environmental changes for the sensory seeking child
Environmental Changes for the Sensory Seeking Child
  • Tactile: deep pressure, provide items for stimulation- fidget toys, stress balls
  • Proprioceptive: heavy lifting, exercise bands, pushing, pulling, running, jumping, rope climbing, bike/tricycle riding, sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair
  • Vestibular: swings, slides, jungle gym
  • Visual: order & organization, minimize clutter
  • Auditory: headphones with steady calm music
paying attention to their senses
Paying Attention to Their Senses
  • Group Work! 
  • Each group will be given a sense: identify a potential trigger at:
    • Home
    • School
    • In the Community
  • Come up with at least one sensory intervention strategy to address the associated issues
great resources references
Great Resources (References)
  • Consult with an Occupational Therapist
  • The Out-of-Sync Child, Carol Stock Kranowitz
  • The Out of Sync Child Has Fun, Carol Stock Kranowitz
  • Sensational Kids, Lucy Jane Miller