Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and Autistic Spectrum Disorder

These are umbrella terms covering several distinct disorders which can overlap (co morbid) or stand alone, in varying degrees. For example, a child with Autism can also have a Sensory Processing Disorder.

Each individual is unique and their symptoms, sensitivities and expression of their diagnosed condition will differ from the next person.

However, the Craniosacral therapy approach may be very similar because it works on the fundamental building blocks of the system which are malfunctioning.

Sensory Processing Disorder simply put by Dr Ayres who first defined sensory integration, is where there is a traffic jam of information in the brain.

Our body is continually receiving information from our senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell, and balance and this is interpreted by the brain so that we can respond appropriately to our environment.

With SPD, the child’s Central Nervous System may not receive or detect that information. They may not integrate or modulate the information and send out inaccurate messages. This can affect motor coordination (continually bumping into things or falling over), inability to use playground equipment  or maybe a fear of swings, where there is a vestibular disorder, problems with listening and following instructions (language processing).

The child may be:

Overresponsive to sensory stimuli for example: screaming when the vacuum cleaner is on, or standing frozen when they have stepped on sand, intolerance to a drop of water on their t shirt or

Underresponsive: needing a lot of stimulation to act for example not moving their hand away when touching a hot object, tying shoes so tight they bruise their feet, not feeling or knowing when they are hungry or need the toilet (introception).

Sensory craving: impulsive need to touch and feel, for example getting excessively messy, or too close to people even when unwelcome.

Eating may be affected, where certain textures of foods are overwhelming for the child and they would rather forgo the meal and stay hungry than eat the food that looks feels or smells different. Parents may have to carry the meal of choice around in their bag, to children’s parties, and send it in for school lunch.

They may hurt themselves or have a cut and not have noticed.

Your child may not seem to hear or listen when called several times and often are sent for hearing tests which come back clear.

They may hate having their hair washed or sunscreen on their faces. They may find certain clothes intolerable to wear and be very sensitive to labels. However simultaneously love being stroked gently. One week it may feel like they have learned a lot but the next week they can’t recall when asked anything they have learned. Their memory and recall is affected.

More information can be found in the book “The Out-of-Sync Child. Recognising and coping with Sensory Processing Disorders.” Carol Stock Kranowitz and Lucy Jane Miller.

How Craniosacral Therapy can help:

Calming the nervous system where the fight, flight, freeze mechanism of the sympathetic nervous system is not functioning as it should. This in turn allows the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) a turn to enable the gut to function better.

Grounding: many children with SPD and/or ASD are ungrounded which sometimes explains the need to wear tighter smaller shoes and socks and by grounding them it helps them to be more focused and learn better.

Relieving any restrictions in the cranial bones, membranes and fascia: Dr Upledger found that children with ASD have very tight membranes in their bodies in common and relieving them so that they can move with ease enabling greater cerebrospinal fluid flow, and drainage helped a myriad of symptoms including hyperactivity in children.

Relieving the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) in teeth grinding:  if your child suffers from teeth grinding Craniosacral therapy can help to ease this. The same applies for adults with or without SPD or ASD.

Vagus nerve damage repair: children who engage in behaviours such as spinning around and around with their eyes pointed to the corners or hands flapping are self-regulating where the Vagus nerve is not functioning as it should. Craniosacral therapy can help to relieve this.

Children delivered by ventouse or after a long birth where they were stuck in a birth canal can often have cranial restrictions which naturally should resolve after birth, however sometimes they do not. Craniosacral therapy can gently relieve these restrictions.

Addressing the above has a significant effect on overall health, immunity, sleep and has ripple effect on relationships between family members, improving social relationships outside the home and boosting academic performance.

*The above is not intended to diagnose and appropriate medical advice must be sought. CST works well along side Occupational Therapy and Speech therapy that may be required in certain cases.