Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dabrowski's Overexcitabilities/Sensory Integration Dysfunction

Sword's article, mentioned in the previous post, was a relief to read once I knew we were dealing with a gifted child. Most importantly, it tied together some very odd behaviors that baffled me. It explained some of the characteristics of the visual-spatial learner. This confirmed, for me, that my son was gifted even while having some behaviors which most people assume aren't present in a gifted child. More importantly, it discussed the overexcitabilities present in gifted children, especially emotional overexcitabilities.

Unfortunately, when most people discuss gifted overexcitabilities, there is often no explanation as to how to deal with them. Parents of gifted children are very often left with the impression that they and their children are held captive to the whims of the child.

In my experience, some of the wisest people in the public education system are occupational therapists. They deal with children who have these strange reactions to normal stimulus on a regular basis, and few things surprise them. They are invaluable in that they actually can provide you with ways to deal with these overexcitabilities, which they often label as sensory integration dysfunction or, more simply, sensory issues.

When a child has sensory issues, what looks like misbehavior can very often be an attempt on the part of the child to make his environment more comfortable or, if possible, to make the offending sensation go away. Children don't know how to explain this, however, and their behavior is completely mystifying and frustrating to adults.

Occupational therapists can explain these overexcitabilities or sensory issues in terms of children who are sensory seeking and sensory avoiding. It is also entirely possible to have a child who is both. By examining these issues from this paradigm, you can find ways to help children who are sensory avoiding to either become more aware of their issues, making it easier for them to explain the problem, or to provide ways to make the sensations less frightening. (My son had a friend who needed to have his skin brushed for short periods throughout the day because he was so touch avoidant, as an example.) For children who are sensory seeking, you can find ways to meet their needs either through therapy, activities at home, or socially acceptable means within a classroom.

Most sensory issues may be worked around when a child is young and therefore the issues may not be addressed. When the child is in school, the sensory issues will become more pronounced. Unfortunately, therapy is most effective when a child is between the ages of 3 and 6, so it important to discover as soon as possible if your child is dealing with these issues.

In my case, I didn't discover this until my child was six, and he still, as a teenager, is in the process of determining ways to cope. However, I could not believe some of the differences I saw in my son once we began therapy. Therapy was worth it even though it was not preventative.

1 comment:

Anne said...

I custom make weighted products (blankets, vests, lap pads, hats, critters) and have had the opportunity on many occasions to see the successful results of the items in 'calming' the person with sensory issues. If you get a chance please visit my website & let me know what you think!

Cheers - Anne