Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Out-of-Sync Child

There is a website called The Out-of-Sync Child which relates the story of certain children who, as the title suggests, seem to be just a little off the norm. In the introduction to the disorder, the author says:

Most children enjoy such activities because they have effective sensory processing—the ability to organize sensory information for use in daily life. They take in sensations of touch, movement, sight, and sound coming from their bodies and the world around them, and they respond in a well-regulated way.

Some children, however, such as Andrew, Ben, and Alice, did not enjoy coming to my classroom. Faced with the challenge of sensory-motor experiences, they became tense, unhappy, and confused. They refused to participate in the activities, or did so ineffectively, and their behavior disrupted their classmates’ fun. They are the children for whom this book is written.

As Carol Stock Kranowitz notes, many teachers become frustrated with children like this and are quick to 'label them' as lazy or uncooperative. They are the children who march to the beat of a different drummer who become the scorn of some in the teaching field. Kranowitz notes that a pediatric occupational therapist named Lynn A. Balzer-Martin was diagnosing and treating young children who had academic and behavior problems stemming from a neurological inefficiency – then called “sensory integration dysfunction.”

Today this disorder is called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and it "can cause a bewildering variety of symptoms. When their central nervous systems are ineffective in processing sensory information, children have a hard time functioning in daily life. They may look fine and have superior intelligence, but may be awkward and clumsy, fearful and withdrawn, or hostile and aggressive. SPD can affect not only how they move and learn, but also how they behave, how they play and make friends, and especially how they feel about themselves."

No doubt the parents of these children cry out for answers as to why their child is so 'different.' Unless the child is tested and diagnosed, the child remains just an enigma, a quirky kid with a dicey future ahead of them.

"Preschoolers, whose nervous systems are still developing rapidly, stand a good chance to benefit from therapeutic intervention. Lynn knew that if SPD could be detected in three-, four-, or five-year-olds, these children could receive individualized treatment that would prevent later social and academic impasses."

The author says that although early intervention is best, even adults with the disorder can be helped. The key is in recognizing the symptoms and getting a diagnosis.
The SPD Network has a website with much more information on this disorder including behaviors to look for in a child which seems 'out-of-sync.'

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