“Jumping Out of My Skin”
Many children with learning disabilities, attention-defi cit hyperactivity disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and mood-regulation problems experience sensory hypersensitivities. Children with full-spectrum Asperger’s syndrome typically exhibit a combination of learning disabilities, serious social mis-attunement, attention-defi cit hyperactivity disorder, sensory hypersensitivity, and diffi culties with aff ective dysregulation (Klin, Volkmar, & Sparrow, 2000). Parents and professionals oft en misunderstand these diffi culties, especially regarding how the sensory problems impact relational dynamics (DeGangi, 2000; Miller & Fuller, 2006). Th ere are some children, for example, who have motor planning problems coupled with diffi culties in executive functioning. Such a symptom constellation makes it diffi cult for that child to understand how to be with peers or how to generate and persevere in group games or activities. Children with auditory hypersensitivities, on the other hand, oft en cannot tolerate the level of noise that is typically generated by groups of children having fun, for example, in noisy environments like the playground or lunchroom. If the child has tactile defensiveness, he is apt to be overly reactive to being bumped or touched by other children. Th e tactually defensive child oft en misinterprets friendly touch as aggressive. In contrast, some children may seek out heavy touch contact with peers because of a underreactive tactile system and be viewed by others as aggressive when in fact they are craving physical contact. Children with sensory integration problems are oft en treated by an occupational therapist to address how sensory underpinnings relate to self-calming, better attention, organization skills, motor planning, and functional learning and motor abilities. Unless the youngster works with a mental health professional who understands sensory integration processing disorder, the child may not understand the connection between sensory problems and his experience of emotional distress or social diffi culties. Th is week’s letter relates some of the typical experiences of a child with problems within this realm of development.