The term sensory processing refers to the neurological process of taking in sensory information through the body and organizing this information to be able to respond in a functional way to the demands of the environment, home, school, and community settings. For example, a child reaches to catch a ball that is tossed to him or brushes away a bug that she feels land on her arm. This is called an adaptive response. It is an unconscious process that occurs every day. A child’s sensory processing abilities are evaluated by standardized evaluations, clinical observations, and a parental and/or teacher report. Red flags in a child’s development may include: inflexibility to changes in routines; constant movement which interferes with daily routines; sensitivity to various textures, clothing, finger paint; clumsy – frequent falls; lack of exploration in the environment during play; or low endurance/fatigue during activities.
Signs that a child may need OT may include difficulty recognizing or forming his or her manuscript or cursive alphabet, complaining that handwriting tires them easily, or they may have difficulty sitting for a handwriting task. Sometimes a parent or teacher may notice a child’s pencil grasp is immature or that a child presses too hard when writing and coloring.