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How This Book Can Help Families Understand Sensory Integration

Many parents don’t realize just how much their children rely on their senses when they engage in regular, everyday activities. After all, what mom has time to sit down and read some scientific essay on sensory integration when your child is having a meltdown in the middle of the living room floor? I know I don’t!

I don’t know about you, but when I first started identifying that my child may struggle with some sensory processing issues, I felt completely overwhelmed. I didn’t understand half of what my child’s physical and occupational therapist were talking about, and when I tried to do my own online research, I could only find very in-depth articles filled with medical jargon or half-baked articles on sites like WebMD.

Luckily, Dr. Reema Naim, OTD, a pediatric occupational therapist and owner of OT Studios in Los Angeles, has created a new book to help parents and their children tackle the troubles of sensory integration: “Adventures of the Sensokids.”

According to Dr. Naim, most of us are completely unaware of the fact that our bodies actually rely on a total of seven senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, sound, vestibular, and proprioception.

Essentially, our sense of vestibular, or movement, helps us understand our body positioning and balance. However, many children who struggle with vestibular processing can be seen as hyperactive or unable to sit still.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, some children with vestibular input issues, like my daughter, can appear overly fearful of climbing stairs or stepping on certain surfaces and may experience heightened motion sickness. Over time, I’ve learned to read my daughter’s cues, but sometimes her fearfulness can look more like tantrums or even stubborn defensiveness — until you learn that she’s actually just uncertain because she doesn’t feel balanced or properly in place.

Furthermore, proprioception helps us all understand the motions we make and how much force to exert for certain tasks. Therefore, children who struggle with proprioception may appear clumsy, aggressive, or even inept at some fine motor or gross motor tasks.

Although a lot of my daughter’s struggles with proprioception probably relate more to her mild cerebral palsy, I know other children who also struggle with similar issues who don’t have a CP diagnosis.

At the end of the day, a child with vestibular or proprioception struggles is just doing the best they can, and as parents, we need to make sure we understand our children’s needs and teach them how to handle these challenges. And that’s where Dr. Reema Naim, OTD and her new book come in. During her fieldwork rotation at the University of Southern California, Dr. Naim noticed that many of her patients’ parents had no idea how sensory integration impacted their children’s daily lives, but she didn’t have any great information to give them. “All of the resources I had to direct them to were long-winded, complicated articles and essays,” she said — and she’s right.

So instead, Dr. Naim decided to focus her attention on creating a fun, animated way to help children and their parents understand the seven senses and how sensory integration treatment can help children who struggle with vestibular and proprioception.

According to Naim, “The series is designed for children, but parents and teachers are highly encouraged to read it.” In fact, Naim says that she included an education page at the end of each book that helps parents learn along with their children.

Furthermore, families can engage in the activities that the Sensokids complete in each story, since they are typical exercises and recommended concepts that occupational therapists like Dr. Naim use with their patients.

If your child has a condition like sensory processing disorder, autism, or other neurological conditions, Dr. Naim suggests that you support your child and help them navigate their sensory needs. “I strongly believe acceptance and being a supporter in their sensory and social needs is key,” Naim says.

This may look different for your child than it does for mine, but that’s the beauty in it — we can all support children in the ways they need.

Furthermore, research shows that children with sensory integration issues highly benefit from occupational therapy. Although many pediatric OTs use a play-based approach, those moments of play contain scientifically-backed concepts that help children improve their sensory integration over time. Occupational therapists can also help children develop coping skills and effective management tools that help them overcome their sensory struggles.

While Dr. Naim stresses that every child’s sensory struggles are unique, a supportive environment and professional assistance can help all children overcome these roadblocks so that they can ultimately thrive just as much, if not more, than every other child out there. And with the help of Naim’s new series, Adventures of the Sensokids, you and your child can learn all there is to know about sensory integration together.

Portions of this article also appear on Moms.com.

Getty photo by Monkey Business Images.