What is sensory defensiveness?
Sensory defensiveness is a “fight or flight” reaction to a stimulus that most people would not perceive as negative. Children with sensory defensiveness over-respond to sensory input and react by displaying negative emotions or behaviors. Children who over-respond to sensory input may inefficiently process sensory information from the auditory, olfactory, visual, vestibular and tactile systems.
What causes sensory defensiveness?
Sensory defensiveness indicates a low neurological threshold–it takes very little for the brain to respond to sensory information. For example, a child may be lightly touched while standing in a line with peers and may respond by acting out aggressively. Sensory defensiveness is frequently linked to poor limbic or reticular system processing.
How does this condition affect my child?
Sensory defensiveness affects the daily functioning of children at home, school and in all social circumstances. Children with this condition may avoid, withdraw, or even lash out at any stimulus they perceive to be negative. These consistent patterns of behavior may limit opportunities for exploring their environment, interacting with peers, or communicating their needs to others. The following are a few examples of sensory defensiveness:
- Auditory defensiveness: fearful reactions to noise, such as covering ears to loud noises (leaf blower, train, vacuum, etc.)
- Tactile defensiveness: aversive reactions to tags in clothing, light touch, brushing of hair and avoidance of play activities that involve body contact
- Visual defensiveness: hypersensitivity to light or avoidance of eye gaze
- Olfactory defensiveness: distress to certain odors that others do not seem to mind
- Vestibular defensiveness: aversive sympathetic nervous system reactions to swinging or other forms of vestibular-proprioceptive input, such as nausea or vertigo, or fearful emotional reactions (also known as gravitational insecurity)
How can I help treat my child’s sensory defensiveness?
Sensory integrative strategies are commonly used to treat sensory defensiveness. Sensory experiences are introduced slowly and gradually so the child does not react negatively to the introduction of the stimulus. It is important to communicate safety and comfort to the child during the introduction of these stimuli, so he does not feel threatened by these therapeutic experiences.
Our approach at North Shore Pediatric Therapy
At North Shore Pediatric Therapy, our occupational therapists provide a rich sensory environment for your child, which meets his specific needs. For example, our therapists might introduce your child to interaction and play with sand, water, and finger paints, which may help decrease extreme reactions to tactile experiences. We might also utilize a sound-based intervention called “Therapeutic Listening,” which improves auditory regard. Our therapists will accommodate your child’s needs in a safe and secure environment, and we will work to improve his sensory processing both in our facility and in his every day life.
Client Reviews (16)
I completed my first FWII placement at NSPT in Bucktown. I had such a fantastic learning experience that truly helped me to grow my skills and experience. The staff at Bucktown was extremely welcoming and happy to teach, answer questions and allow me to observe outside my discipline to make this an even more well-rounded experience. The orientation/mentor program is great for students and makes heading into FW a much easier transition that sets you up for success. I had a great working relationship with my clinical instructor who helped me develop my treatment planning, documentation and intervention skills as well as teaching me a great deal about being a practicing OT in general! Overall, I couldn’t ask for anything more from a FWII experience!
I completed my Level IIA Fieldwork at North Shore Pediatric Therapy in Bucktown. I am so impressed by the organization of the student program and its emphasis on the reflection process. This reflection process has helped me develop clinical reasoning skills that are significant to treating clients. I also felt surrounded by a professional body of therapists that took on a mentor role, especially my supervisor. The gradual increase in case load was challenging yet manageable, providing me with client-centered intervention experience that will apply to my future endeavors as a therapist. Thank you, North Shore.
Our son Ian has been having sensory issues for a while & we were very pleased with the work that Ms. Dawn had been doing with him to help him deal with his processing issues. We were sad to leave NSPT due to a move out-of-state.
I completed my level II OT fieldwork at NSPT and it was a really positive experience. There is a multidisciplinary staff that are all eager to welcome and assist in the learning process. It is a really great location to learn about diverse applications of pediatric OT. All of the staff are passionate about what they do and have creative and exciting ideas to motivate children as they work on a wide variety of skills. NSPT is a wonderful placement for developing skills for pediatric OT and I am grateful to have had this experience!
We are incredibly fortunate to have Mrs. Ellyn’s influence. Even though we have only been here for 6 months, I am seeing a more able, more confident child. Mrs. Ellyn not only has helped gross and fine motor control, coordination and motor planning, but has helped set boundaries and attainable goals for my child. It is great to see him grow so strong.
I completed my final level II OT fieldwork at NSPT and had one of the best clinical experiences I could have expected. The entire staffs’ level of investment in their work motivated me to be creative while also working hard to deliver evidence-based research interventions. The successful stories I often heard from parents regarding their child’s growth reflects the passion and love each clinician at NSPT has for their job. I am so sad to have to say goodbye to the staff and the kids I’ve been working with for the past three months, and can’t express how grateful I am to have been placed here!
My 5-year-old son has been receiving OT therapy at NSPT for 2 1/2 years. Could not be happier with his progress. Thank You NSPT!
My son (now 4) has been receiving OT at North Shore Pediatric Therapy in Glenview for almost a year. He receives a wide array of OT services including feeding therapy, core strengthening, fine-motor work, and balance activities. It is very encouraging to see the progress he has made and how much he enjoys his sessions. The OT truly listens to our concerns and provides us with plenty of resources and activities that we can work on at home to keep his progress going.
North Shore Pediatric Therapy (NSPT) has changed our lives for the better! My six year old son was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder when he was 3. Getting through a day was a difficult journey for the entire family until we began to get Occupational Therapy services (OT) for him. We see Ellyn, an OT at the Highland Park office, and she acts not only as an advocate for my son helping him strengthen his areas of weakness, but also as a great support system for me (mom). The entire NSPT team has been fantastic. I highly recommend them!
Our daughter is currently 3.5 years old. Since birth, we knew something wasn’t quite right. Her colic lasted nearly a year and when the colic broke, whining/crying/severe tantrums began. She was evaluated at 3 and 24 months by an OT for potential sensory processing issues and both came back inconclusive. We had her seen by a behavioral specialist as well as a developmental pediatrician. No one was able to help our struggled daughter or us. Until Dec 2013 when we came to North Shore Pediatric Therapy in Highland Park….we met Ellyn Kearney. She understood our daughter before she even met her. Ellyn has changed our lives and how we live day to day. Our daughter suffered from severe sensory processing issues despite being a healthy beautiful child. The progress noted from my child is remarkable. Thank you NSPT and Thank you Ellyn.
My 6 year-old son was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism/PPD-NOS around age 3 1/2 years old. After searching and looking for Occupational Therapy services we started coming to North Shore Pediatric Therapy in April 2013. We began seeing Shannon Phelan here at North Shore Pediatric Therapy in Bucktown for his OT services. We have seen a tremendous amount of growth in his OT Fine & Gross Motor skills: holding a pen/pencil, writing his letters and numbers and working on his Sensory Processing Integration. We are extremely pleased with our Occupational Therapist, Shannon and the entire North Shore Pediatric Staff. I would highly recommend coming here if you need Occupational Therapy services for your child.
I completed my Level II Fieldwork at NSPT in Bucktown in 2011. From the moment I walked in on the first day it was clear that NSPT created a supportive environment that would further my development as a professional and as an occupational therapist. The sense of community created a comfortable environment to collaborate with other disciplines. Not only was my clinical instructor invested in my learning, but so was the whole staff. Through this experience at NSPT, I found my passion for working within pediatrics. I increased my clinical knowledge, clinical reasoning and confidence during this time. I would highly recommend this site for occupational therapy students looking for a well-rounded and challenging experience.
I completed my second Level 2 fieldwork experience at North Shore Pediatric Therapy and could not have enjoyed my time more. I learned invaluable lessons about the world of pediatric occupational therapy all in a warm and welcoming environment created by staff members of all disciplines. I would highly recommend this fieldwork experience to anyone interested in working with children.
I was able to complete my Level 2 occupational therapy fieldwork at NSPT. It was a great experience! I was challenged educationally and clinically, and as a result came out of the experience with a greater knowledge about sensory integration, fine and gross motor skills, and how to evaluate and treat a wide variety of children in an outpatient setting. My supervisor and all of the staff made me feel welcome and a part of the team!
I completed my second Level 2 fieldwork at North Shore Pediatric Therapy in Glenview and Bucktwon in the Spring of 2012. I enjoyed my experience so much that I am now an employee at NSPT! Overall, I had a very positive yet challenging learning experience that supported growth in my clinical and professional skills. Not only did I grow my OT skills and knowledge but I was able to learn about and collaboate with many different disciplines including social work, physcial therapy, speech language pathology, neuropsychology, etc. NSPT is able to provide students a unique experience to learn how to treat the whole child to help them function at their fullest potential!
I had the opportunity to complete my Level 1C fieldwork experience at North Shore Pediatric Therapy Bucktown. I was incredibly impressed by the knowledge and professionalism of all the staff and their work with the clients and their parents. It was a wonderful learning experience for me and I highly recommend this site for any level 1 or 2 OT student interested in pediatrics. I wish I could have stayed longer.