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Gym Class and the Sensory Child

Posted Nov 12 2009 10:04pm

Sensory processing (sometimes called "sensory integration" or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or "sensory integration."
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.
Research by the SPD Foundation indicates that 1 in every 20 children experiences symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder that are significant enough to affect their ability to participate fully in everyday life. Symptoms of SPD, like those of most disorders, occur within a broad spectrum of severity. While most of us have occasional difficulties processing sensory information, for children and adults with SPD, these difficulties are chronic, and they disrupt everyday life.

Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) can present itself in a variety of fashions: oral, auditory, tactile and olfactory.
In this case, Kaitlyn is more auditory.
Any loud, unpredictable sound will trigger it and send her into a tizzy.
The honk of a car horn.
The sound a toy makes that is unexpected.
A loud organ and trumpet in Church on Easter Sunday.
The whistle in gym class.

The last example is what we are facing now. Apparently, the gym teacher blows the whistle and Kate's tears start flowing as she trembles like a leaf. I find this to be frustrating because she LOVES physical activity of any sort.

My resolution: Kaitlyn will continue to go to gym class, but with her own whistle.
Her teacher mentioned the idea to me after school yesterday and I jumped on it. So off to Target today for a whistle.
It is silver. Like the gym teacher's whistle.
It is on a cord. Like the gym teacher's whistle.
It is loud. Like the gym teacher's whistle.
But it is Kaitlyn's whistle.
And hopefully she will be able to "help" the gym teacher out during her three-time-per-week stint in gym class this year.

For additional information regarding SPD, follow the link below or on the side of my blog labeled "Helpful Links for All Special Ed Needs".

Ah, yes, this too shall pass.
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