What are Sensory Issues and Interventions?
How we perceive the world helps us express and make sense of our experiences, thoughts, and feelings. But when these messages from the external environment are not regulated appropriately, it can cause feelings of extreme frustration and discomfort.
Most cases of Autism are often accompanied by sensory issues. Sensory issues are defined as difficulties in processing and acting on information received through our senses. Hence, sensory issues can be of the tactile, visual, or auditory nature, to name a few.
Children with sensory processing difficulties tend to show over-responsiveness or under-responsiveness towards external stimuli. As a parent, it can be challenging to deal with the unexpected meltdowns caused due to sensory overload. A large portion of the therapy sessions is often dedicated to helping the child with his/her sensory issues.
Sensory-based interventions typically focus on a particular sense and incorporate sensory activities pertaining to that particular sense. These interventions are also helpful in developing life skills, motor skills, coordination, etc.
Coping with the behavioral issues caused due to sensory processing difficulties can often feel overwhelming for not only the child but for the parents as well. A research conducted in India, focusing on the effectiveness of home-based sensory interventions comes as a sign of hope because it sheds light on a treatment option rich in accessibility, affordability, and simplicity.
What does the research show?
A research study carried out by Padmanabha et al. published in the Indian Journal of Pediatrics, sought out to determine the feasibility and efficacy of home-based sensory interventions in children with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with sensory processing abnormalities. The study involved two groups: the sensory-intervention group and the standard-therapy group. The sensory-intervention group received home-based sensory interventions by the parents/caregivers plus standard therapy; standard-therapy group received speech therapy by the speech pathologists and applied behavior analysis by the child psychologist.
After a 12 week period, both groups consisting of children between 3–12 years of age were tested on measures of wellbeing and health-related quality of life as well as the decline in sensory abnormalities.
The home-based sensory interventions focused on tactile stimulation, proprioception stimulation, vestibular stimulation, visual stimulation, and auditory stimulation. Activities like popping bubbles using hands, handling materials with variety of textures, listening to familiar sounds and matching them with appropriate pictures, etc were conducted.
The results showed that children in the sensory intervention group showed marked improvement in the reduction of sensory abnormalities as compared to the standard therapy group. The researchers found a reduction of hyperactivity, motor-stereotypies, and auditory sensitivity in those who underwent sensory interventions. Moreover, there was an improvement in wellbeing and health-related quality of life as well.
What are the practical applications?
It is of paramount importance to emphasize the fact that this research finding has come out of our very own country, India, and not from a continent far, far away. Home-based sensory interventions can prove to be a turning point in a child’s therapeutic journey. A therapy option that is effective and feasible is just what parents of a special needs child need, especially, parents who already have a lot on their plate.
This study brilliantly highlights the importance of home-based sensory interventions as a type of a complementary therapy for ASD children. In countries like India, where the accessibility to medical professionals and the availability of treatment options for conditions like Autism is limited for a majority of the population, these interventions can be a ray of hope.
Additional research and expert opinions on these types of interventions would indeed be a welcome step forward. The feasibility and accessibility of this treatment option sets it apart from all the traditional approaches currently in use. This is not to say that home-based interventions could act as a substitute for other therapy options, but rather work in support of any ongoing treatments.
Look out for our post on fun and easy sensory activities that you can easily do at home with your child!
Access the research article here – https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12098-018-2747-4