Sensory processing disorder in teens and older children
Teens can have problems with sensory processing. In this phase of life they go through a lot of changes, their bodies frow rapidly and in the grip of hormones, and they are in the proces of becoming independent individuals. All these changes can take place so rapidly that the sensory cells in muscles and joints, which give us information on our body position and movement, cannot put up with this pace. Growing fast always causes a temporary clumsiness. In order to maintain our balance literally as wel as fuguratively speaking, through all these changes, it is very impotant to have plenty of motor activities every day.
In this information era we tend to put litle emphasis on physical exercise and even at school it seems to have low priority. We do not use our muscles sufficiently, as a result we can loose contact with ourselves, which makes it more difficult to focus on the task at hand. We tend to ignore too many sensory stimuli or the opposite, we bothered by all kinds of sensory stimuli, like sounds, being touched, being moved.
Generally speaking , physical activities have a positive affect on all teens for example biking to school, sports, dancing. If an older child or teenager has more than average problems with sensory processing, it can be necessary to put an extra demand on his tactile and vestibular or balancing system. This will enforce these bodily senses, so that he will start to "feel" better in both senses of the word.
The sensory games are not necassarily childish; it only takes some modification. It is crucial that your older child or teenager takes the initiative in tackling his problems by getting an extra dose of sensory stimuli every day.
For a teenager being touched by someone else may not be an appriopriate activity, but touching his own body with a massage sponge, shower gel or body lotion can be suiteble alternatives. Standing firmly on his feet feels like being touched by the ground. Lying prone on a fitness ball with hands on the floor is like being touched by the ball. The same goes for sitting on a fitness ball.
Like being touched, it may not be a suitable activity for a teenager to be moved by another person, but moving himself or balancing on a moving surface forcing him to respond to these movements can have the same effect for example jumping on a trampoline, sitting on a fitness ball, ball cushion / seating disc or inflatable chair. The fitness balls and inflatable chairs can be inflated softly or hard, depending on the desired effect. When inflated hard, they give little movement, the softer the more movement. When inflated too softly it becomes difficult to sit on them properly. However, this can also be fun; the soft chair or ball gives continuous touch and motion. Many gyms or fitness centre have all kinds of equipment that provide motion and evoke response to motion.
Moving yourselfMoving yourself generates information from muscles, joints and the vestibular system. This information can be reinforced by the use of weights and by moving against resistance , e.g. by using elastic exercise bands.
If your teenager is anxious, active, clumsy or have another problem you can also check the website under the section Active, anxious or clumsy.
The following activities and games may be suitable for your teens:
- Provide enough physical exercise
- Physical exercise at school
- Sports and games
- The use of weights
- The use of vibrating material
- Sitting on a ball or ball cushion
- Sitting on a ball and moving to music
- Sitting on a ball while watching television
- Exercise pressure with a ball
- Lying on top of different material
- Rolling, walking on your knees or on all fours over different materials
- Skating on rugs
- Something to feel
- Rubbing in body lotion
- Massage with different materials
- The use of the foot massage bath
- Drinking through a straw
- Blowing bubbles
There are two boks,with a website, on sensory disorder in teens.
- Henry Occupational Therapy Services. This website contains a lot of information on sensory processing; also on teens. Here you can order the book 'Tools for Teens' Including online courses on several subjects.
Sensory Processing Disorders in Older Kids and Teens
This website is dedicated to providing parents with information on how to help young people with sensory issues.
The information on this website is based on the book The Sensory Team Handbook. Order via books children
Els Rengenhart © 2010