Among the multifarious difficulties encountered and suffered by the autistic children, sensory issues seem to be the most acute. Although not all the autistic children suffer from them, but when they do, then this feature of their problem becomes the most prominent. This issue involves the polarity of two extremes- on the one hand, a child can be over-sensitive to the stimuli, on the other hand, they can be under-sensitive and under-receptive to the stimuli. Over-sensitive autistic children are unable to bear any loud noise. For them different types of food and fabric can also pose a problem to them. Some particular fabric can make them feel like insects walking over their skin. For such children, things that are a bit heightened than the ordinary seem too much for them to handle and come to terms with. On the other end of the scale, there are children who are totally non-responsive to all kinds of stimuli. They fail to take cognizance of loud noise, hugging and kissing or any big event for that matter.
Apparently autistic children find it difficult to manage such sensory issues and the outcome of this is a cluster of self-destructive behaviors that do not make sense to anyone. Autistic children at times cannot realize their physicality and take refuge into destructive behaviors like banging their head against the wall or crashing into objects to feel themselves, which arise out of the problem of sensory integration impairment. This therapy has been designed to mitigate these self-injurious behavior and help them to soundly process the informations gathered through the five senses and help produce desirable responses.
The aim of sensory integration therapy is to bring the nervous system to a state that would enable it to process the informations coming from the surrounding world in a normal way. This therapy is founded on the assumption that with the help of a host of motor and sensory exercises of the central nervous system, it is possible to condition the brain to act normally. This therapy is administered by the physical or occupational therapists and has been proven to improve listening skill, concentration, motor functioning, physical balance and impulse control in autistic children.
This therapy has been found to be an effective way of assisting autistic children to cope with their surroundings and hence, enabling them to lead a better adjusted life. As the autistic symptoms as well as the level of sensory impairment vary from person to person, so before applying this therapy it is imperative to prepare well-constructed plan. This therapy can be of various types:
Auditory integration therapy:
This therapy is for children who are over-sensitive to loud noises. This involves making the child listen to musical tones of various frequencies through headphones. The tones are specially made for autistic children. The brain needs to acclimatize themselves to these tones which over time changes the way their brain process auditory output. This way, it makes sure that your child becomes less sensitive to auditory stimuli.
Wilbarger deep pressure therapy:
Many autistic children exhibit serious problem with the sensation of touch and feels irritated to various fabrics of clothes. For them Wilbarger Deep Pressure technique work pretty well. In this therapy, the child’s skin is brushed with a special brush in a specific manner. This serves to stimulate the nerves and receptors of the body and help the child to be more tolerant to the sensation of touch. But remember this should be done only by the trained professional.
There are things called ‘sensory diet’ that offer help to autistic children to take care of sensory issues. It is meant for both types of autistic children- over-sensitive and under-receptive. For the under-receptive children, this therapy requires them to engage themselves in activities like running, rolling on a ball, balancing, spinning etc to make them feel okay and get going. For the over-sensitive children, this therapy gradually enables their brain to process information in a different way that reduces their over-sensitivity. This therapy can take the form of play but they in fact affect significant change in the way these children’s brain work.