Leiden Professorenwijk
Leiden Professorenwijk

Pediatric physiotherapie and sensory processing

Sensory processing
Sensory processing deals with the processing of sensory perception (vision, feeling, smell, taste and hearing) in the brain. These perceptions play an important role in warning for danger, focusing of attention and taking on information.

With the majority of children sensory integration goes unnoticed. Feeling and taste are developed by drinking and eating. Vision develops as well. Simultaneously children learn to discriminate between sounds in the foreground and background and to interpret sounds so they do not get frightened. With their mouth and hands they explore objects around them. They learn to play with sand and water and experience a variety of materials. The development of the sense of balance is very important. The start of sensory integration takes place in the first four years of a child's life.

Anomalies in taste

The sense of touch warns for danger. The children are sensitive for touch: they do not like to sit on one’s lap or to be hugged. We call this tactile hypersensitivity. They are usually very fussy about their food. Clothes are experienced as ‘itchy’. They are usually not fond of playing with water, sand, clay and paint, because they find it dirty.
In this case the sense of touch provides too little tactile information. Touching or being touched are not well experienced. The child has less control over his body. Therefore the child is clumsy and will bump easily. These children do enjoy playing with ‘dirty’ materials like water, sand, clay and paint.

Sense of balance or vestibular system
Vestibular hypersensitivity
These children are very sensitive for moving or being moved.The sense of balance warns too early for danger.  They do not like being moved, romping or other wild plays.
Vestibular hyposensitivity
The sense of balance does not give enough warnings: body movements are not well noticed. As a compensation children  look out for movements. They enjoy being moved, swinging, romping or similar wild plays. These children can be real daredevils and they are moving continually. Sitting still is hard for them.

Physiotherapy is often successful for children with problems in sensory integration. Therefore it is necessary to touch and move the child in a way the child starts enjoying these movements, leading to an improvement of the sensorimotor system.

For further reading (in English) see by Els Rengenhart.