What You Need To Know About Sensory Processing Disorder

While approximately 10% of school-aged children experience some form of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) – a condition that was recently diagnosed as a form of autism, SPD has only recently received its own diagnosis. Because many of the symptoms of SPD overlap with those of children who have ADHD or are on the autism spectrum, diagnosis has been challenging for doctors.

sensory processing disorder

What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Sensory processing is the ability to take in sensory information from the world around us and interpret this information effectively so that we may function optimally throughout the day. The brain not only processes information through the senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and sound, but the nervous system also interprets this sensory information and translates it into movement, body position and pressure.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) occurs when the nervous system has difficulty regulating, processing, and interpreting information from one or more of the senses. This may affect one’s ability to function optimally in all environments, and these difficulties can adversely affect a child’s social skills, academic performance, and motor development.

Different children perceive and process sensory information differently. Some children find loud noises scary, while others search for interesting ways to create noise. Similarly, some children may only tolerate certain fabrics or textures for clothing, while others may enjoy rolling around in grass, sand, or on the carpet. All children and adults have different sensory preferences, and while most adults have learned to adapt to their specific needs, some children need guidance in processing sensory information to reach their full potential.

sensory processing disorder

Are There Treatment Options For SPD?

For many individuals, music or sound therapy is the answer to training the brain to process sensory information correctly. Organizations such as Millennium Learning Advantage recognize that the brain is capable of change, regeneration and growth, and use brain-based learning and cognitive enhancement programs that are specifically designed to fine-tune the brain’s ability to comprehend and manage information to help children with various needs achieve success.

Hear what one mom had to say about The Listening Program – a unique program designed to address auditory processing issues (one of the many programs available at Millennium Learning Advantage):

For more information on sound therapy and sensory processing programs,  visit millenniumlearningadvantage.com.

The WestCoast Families July August issues is full of information and resources for families with special needs. Pick up a copy from a location near you, or read the current issue online here.

CAN Support for Parents of Children with Autism

by Karen Owen

For a parent of a child with autism, it is easy to remember that exact moment in time when the dreams you had for your child shatter before your eyes.

In 2008, my husband and I listened in shock and disbelief as medical professional diagnosed our son, Oliver, as a non-verbal autistic. In the following years, we worked to navigate the overwhelming world of autism but struggled to find adequate support. My husband and I learned that it was easier to stay home than attempt public outings because of the risk of meltdowns, tantrums and resulting stares. We were living a life of isolation.

Then one day, we heard about the Canucks Autism Network (CAN). My older boys were seven and five at the time and lived in separate worlds. We were desperate for help so we decided to attend CAN’s soccer camp. We had low expectations. Little did we know, our lives were about to change.

When we arrived back home after the camp, something amazing happened. My boys went into our backyard and passed the ball back and forth. My eyes welled with tears. I immediately called the Canucks Autism Network office to thank them. For the first time ever, my two boys were acting like brothers.

Two years later, we learned that our youngest son also had autism. As you can imagine, it was an incredibly difficult time for us. However, the emotional weight was lifted because of our involvement with the Canucks Autism Network. This time around, we had a community of support.

Over the years I have met so many families like mine, all of whom have gone through the same denial, anger and sadness. Thanks to CAN, we have now found hope, happiness and connection. Because of CAN, my boys have life skills and abilities that I never imagined possible. They can now play soccer, swim, ski and skate and I am thrilled to say that my middle son Oliver is now on the CAN hockey team.

CAN transported our family from a world of isolation into a world of hope and possibility and for this I am eternally grateful.

Phoenix’s Therapeutic Gymnastics Program for Every Athlete

by Leigh Dawson, Special Needs Lead Coach at Vancouver Phoenix Gymnastics

Phoenix’s Therapeutic Gymnastics Program for Every Athlete

We’re running back and forth on a long trampoline designed for elite gymnasts to practice their tumbling skills. I have two stuffed animals and a stress ball spilling out of my pockets as I play a two-person tag game with my athlete who we’ll call A. This is not your typical gymnastics class.

A and I work together in a private class where we weave cardio, gross motor, coordination, flexibility and strength building together with games, gymnastics skills and lots (and lots) of trampoline time. A has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and is a member of our Therapeutics Gymnastics program. Like many of our athletes with ASD, A has difficulties with social situations, communication and behavior. Autism is a spectrum, which means that every individual that comes to us has unique needs and goals. The joy of the program is that we interact with the families directly in order to build something around those specific needs and goals, around the athletes themselves.

Not all our athletes have ASD, however. The program is available to anyone with a physical, social or behavioural need. Some of these athletes prefer to come on their own, like A, and work only with one coach. Others join a group situation, but may need an extra hand to help them navigate the class. Some of my greatest moments as a coach have been watching these children gain confidence and independence over time. As 1:1 coaches, both in a class and teaching a private lesson, we get the amazing experience of working closely with one child, getting to know their specific needs, and personality traits. By creating these bonds, the athletes, who may feel ostracized in other situations, feel comfortable. The gym becomes part of their community. We become a community together.

Sirota’s Alchymy Martial Arts

WestCoast Families sat down to talk with Master Michael Sirota to discuss how his martial arts programs helps children with special needs at his program, Sirota’s Alchymy. 

1. You talk about “therapeutic martial arts.” Can you explain what this entails?
We offer specialized programs for children with various special needs and abilities. Our Therapeutic Martial Arts programs have been created over sixteen years ago and we have been blessed to work with thousands of individuals in guiding them on their journey of personal empowerment.Therapeutic Martial Arts is a combination of martial arts training and life skills training infused with character development programs. This combination sees great results in all children with special abilities.

2. Children with special needs require different kinds of attention. How do you cater your teaching style to each child?
Our philosophy is to have martial arts for the participants and not the other way around. What this means is that our skilled instructors are trained to be yielding to the situation and students they are working with. We are ready to work and address any situation and child that comes to our Centre. We offer various programs such as group and private lessons as well as specialty programs to meet the requirements of our students and their parents.

3. Why is it so important that children with special needs engage in physical activity.
Physical activity is crucial for every child! From the pure physical and overall wellness of the child to the coordination, balance, strength and agility that comes from physical training. When it comes to children with special needs this is even more relevant. Children with an abundance of energy require the physical training as a way to ground them; while other children may use martial arts to enhance their overall physical bodies. Often many children lack positive social skills and interpersonal skills, a proper martial arts program can greatly enhance their communication and social skills. Lastly, martial arts training creates opportunities for all to Shine. We see the positive and the assets all kids come to our classes with and our work is to see them enhance their skills so they can continue to have a healthy lifestyle within our inclusive community.

4. Why does martial arts specifically suit children with special needs?
Martial Arts is about the Self – It is a personal journey of growth and development, leading to self-mastery. Martial Arts honours ones own journey. It is not competitive like other sports – there is no loosing or winning, so therefore children only see results and growth. With our individualized progress assessments, all students will progress and grow in skill and rank while working at their own personal pace and best.

5. What is the greatest piece of advice you could give to parents looking for martial arts classes for any child?
Not all schools are the same or even are interested and/or qualified in working with children with special needs. Find the school that has the skills and experience of working with kids and have the “heart” to welcome all children to their martial arts schools.