#15 - Sensory 202 for Parents: Sensory Processing Difficulties

Mar 12, 2023
#15 - Sensory 202 for Parents: Sensory Processing Difficulties

Welcome back to our sensory series! For those of you tuning in for the first time, throughout the entire month of March I am focusing on providing you with a really basic understanding of what sensory processing is, what it means for you and your child, and what is happening inside your child’s body. This way, you can start to really understand your child, why they are behaving or responding to you in a certain way, and better be able to connect with them.


If you have not listened to episode 14 of the Food Explorers Podcast yet, or read that post, the title of that one is Sensory 101 for Parents, I highly suggest you pause this, go back and listen to that one first.


The information we are going to chat about today will make much more sense after you do. So if you haven’t listened to it, start there, then come back and listen to this one.


Ok, so a little reminder on what we chatted about in Sensory 101:

  1. Sensory processing is defined as the way our body takes in, interprets, and responds to sensory information - like what we see, hear, & smell.
  2. We have 8 different sensory systems
  3. Our body kind of works like a thermometer, when we’re getting the right amount of input, and process it well, we’re at that just right temperature. But when we’re not getting the right amount of sensory input, or our body isn’t interpreting it well, our body can get too hot or too cold.
  4. We can use self-regulation strategies to help bring our body back to that just right spot.


Today I want to dive a little deeper in to what happens when our sensory systems are working as effectively as we would like them to. Essentially, what does it mean when a child or an adult is having sensory issues.


The very first thing I want to point out here is that every single person in the world has a sensory system.


And every single one is unique, kind of like a finger print. While one person might love roller coasters, another person might get nauseous. And while one person loves the feeling of the sand beneath their feet, other people might cringe at just the thought.


Does it mean that these people have sensory difficulties? Not necessarily. 


We typically categorize it as a sensory difficulty when it is significant enough to impact your life on a daily basis.  I like to say that we all have sensory quirks. For example, the feeling of suran wrap gives me goose bumps and even the though makes me shudder. But it doesn’t impact me in my daily life - I just use a different wrap or container. And if I had to, I could use saran wrap, I just don’t love it. So when it’s a true sensory challenge or difficulty, these quirks are BIG enough to hold you back from the things you NEED or WANT to do.

You’ll notice throughout my content and this episode I use the term sensory difficulties or sensory challenges instead of disorders.


And I wanted to chat about that for a bit. As you know my background is as an occupational therapist, so occupational therapists do not give diagnoses despite what many people think. When you work with an occupational therapist we look for trends with sensory processing, and where people have challenges, and how it impacts their life. Any kind of diagnosis is going to come from a doctor, in this case it’s usually more your pediatrician, a developmental pediatrician, or a neurologist.

Ok, so now you know when sensory quirks are classified as a difficulty or a challenge. BUT, did you know that there are actually different TYPES of sensory difficulties? 


For the purpose of this episode I am going to give you a brief overview, but I do go in depth on these in my Making Sense of Eating program , and even provide you with case studies to really help you understand the different types.


There are 3 main types of sensory processing difficulties:


  1. Sensory modulation: Sensory modulation is the body’s ability to take the sensory information that comes in from the world, and keep your body at that just right spot. Some times the sensory input is too much, and sometimes it's too little. When you hear the terms sensory avoider, defensive, sensory seeking, over-responsive, under responsive etc, they are usually referring to sensory modulation.

  2. Sensory discrimination: This refers to the body’s ability to tell the difference and intensity of sensory input. Children with discrimination difficulties often have a hard time understanding the signals from inside their body - like when they are hungry, or need to go to the bathroom, or don’t recognize certain sensory information - like what certain sounds mean.

  3. Sensory-based motor difficulties: After our brain interprets sensory information, it sends a message to our muscles of how to respond. When a child has challenges here, they might have a hard time with balance, posture, and motor planning.

Now, to make it a bittttt more confusing…..

Every sensory system is different. One may have no challenges at all, while another has challenges with sensory modulation, and yet another one with sensory-based motor difficulties. And they can also overlap. And that’s where the Making Sense of Eating program really helps, because we talk about every single sensory system separately so you can start to learn about them and identify trends for each. Then at the end we tie it all back together for a really comprehensive picture.


Again, this was a really brief overview of sensory processing difficulties, theres a lot more to it, and a lot more than I chat about in my programs, but I hope that this helped you start to understand a bit more about what may be going on in your child’s body. Maybe you had an aha moment, or realized that you need to do some more digging.


If you haven’t downloaded my new freebie: Self-Regulation Strategies for the Over-and-Understimulated Child, I really really recommend that you take a moment after listening to this episode to do that. It provides you with REALLY simple strategies, that can be really helpful when you start to notice that your child’s body isn’t at that just right right spot, to help them feel a little more grounded and regulated. Go to DrSamgoldman.com/selfregulationstrategies, or click the link in my bio on Instagram to check it out. 


And I will see you back here next week as we continue to dive deeper into sensory processing. Bye!



***This post/podcast is not sponsored. The opinions and content of this blog are unique to the writer unless otherwise stated. No compensation is received for the links shared.

Disclaimers: The information provided by OT 4 ME (“we,” “us” or “our”) on theot4me.com (the “Site”) is for general informational purposes only. The Site cannot and does not contain medical advice. Any medical information is provided as my/our personal experiences is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical advice.


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