Sensory Integration and Enzymes
copyright 2002. by Kd.
Sensory integration is the process of the body compiling all of the external stimuli and signals from the environment, analyzing it, organizing it, and integrating it. With sensory integration dysfunction, one’s nervous system is not able to properly sort out and make sense of all the sensory input that the senses are taking in. Sometimes, the central nervous system cannot process the information in a typical or appropriate manner. Something may be hampering the central nervous system in some way, or the nervous system is just unable to process all the information received. It is not clear where one issue ends and another one starts. This condition is known as either Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID) or Dysfunction of Sensory Integration (DSI).
Sensory input can come from taste, sounds, sight, touch, smell, and movement. All that confusion and stimuli coming into the brain may results in many undesirable behaviors or go so far as to trigger migraine pain and other physical symptoms. Having too much total ‘load’ for the body to handle can also make you very susceptible. Living with migraines is known to make one hypersensitive to sound, lights, color, temperature, and other things. Even motion can make you feel ill. Motion such as climbing up and down steps.
Sometimes the person needs less sensory input and sometimes they need more. Not getting this input leaves a sensation best described as floating, detached, anxious, or confused. As if the sensory system is looking for something that it needs before it can go on. Like it needs an anchor. The necessary input might be in the form of deep pressure, which helps many children. The nervous system is seeking more pressure in order to organize itself and calm down. I need to wear textured nubby socks made from cotton or wool. Slick, dress socks drive me batty. The texture of the thick socks provides more sensory input on my feet. Another way to help focus the nervous system might be through abrupt sensations to help achieve the feeling of being anchored. Some kids throw themselves into furniture. Others may scratch themselves.
Being both oversensitive and undersensitive to a typical environment can cause many problems in daily functioning. A lot of the quirky behaviors, preferences, rituals, and rigidness shown by people with certain conditions may just be a logical way of trying to cope with a particular environment. Many of the repetitive or self-stimulatory (stimming) behaviors seen may be a method of trying to analyze, organize, and integrate sensory information. Repetitive rocking or focusing on something can be ways of calming the nervous system while you, or it, tries to make sense of things. As the person is doing the repetitive behavior, they may be screening out excess sensory information, taking in other information, and trying to make sense of it all. Many adults typically have things they like to do to ‘unwind’ after a hard day. These rituals help us to regroup within ourselves.
How Enzymes May Help
Many people find enzymes help reduce the effects and discomforts accompanying their sensory issues, depending on what the triggers may be. For example, someone may develop migraines or intense headaches due to certain foods. This head pain may result in distortions in light, sound, and motion sensitivity (as migraines are known to do). Digestive enzymes may be able to break down the foods to the extent they are not a problem, no longer act as a trigger, and thus reduce the sensory problem.
Another source of sensitivities may occur when a person has trouble detoxing natural or synthetic compounds. Following a program such as the Feingold program which avoids or eliminates these types of compounds has helped many in this area. Using Epsom salts can greatly relieve the stress on the body and sensory system for several reasons - both for the magnesium that helps with calming and is often deficient; and for the sulfate that helps with detoxification. Some people have found great success with some medications to help with SI.
Dietary adjustments may help. If you have an unknown food sensitivity or allergy, removing that food may reduce symptoms. This may apply to chemical sensitivities as well.
These measures may help, but sensory issues may not nutrition or digestive related.
to learn more about sensory integration
The 'Out-of-Sync Child' is an excellent book on sensory integration. It does a wonderful job of describing what is going on inside the person with sensory dysfunction compared to the behavior you see on the outside; and compares how a person with sensory integration difficulties sees the same situation as a person who is neuro-typical (NT). This book gives many exercises for helping strengthen sensory integration abilities as well as ideas on how to better manage the individual’s environment.
Specialists have specific training in sensory integration therapy, and this usually is in the realm of an occupational therapist (OT). Ask for an OT that has specific training in this area. Many of the exercises are not difficult, not expensive and you can do them yourself. Knowing what is going on with sensory processes and what to do about it can avoid many unpleasant situations, and gain a happier family. The nervous system can recover and rebuild to a certain extent.
Another title is 'Sensory Integration and the Child' by A. Jean Ayres.
Unlocking the Mysteries of Sensory Dysfunction - Elizabeth Anderson
and Pauline Emmons
Is This Your Child- Doris Rapp, MD.
Other titles can be located at the links below.
Sensory Integration discussion group
Enzymes/nutrition discussion group, including SI
the Files section here has lots of good information
For auditory sensitivity:
The Listening Programme www.advancedbrain.com
Canadian supplier of products available for kids with sensory needs:
Toll free phone is 1-800-775-7966
Ideas for Going to the Dentist
I was cleaning out some notes and found this list of ideas for taking sensory sensitive kids to the dentist. Thought someone might like keep them in mind for future trips. Karen.
1. Having things around my son's head was agony for him and apparently is common enough. My son didn't jerk around but it was exhausting for him. I used to go very early in the day when he had the most energy. I would tell him everything that would happen, and we would "practice" at home with me being the dentist and he laid down on the couch. And we would make it funny. Like I would pretend to check his teeth and pull out a rubber snake from his mouth. Or look in his mouth and then make a horrible face and say "Eeeeeewwwww. We need to replace your entire head." Make sure they get to practice spitting the water out. That seems to go over well with boys. Then I would be the patient and my son would be the dentist. This is important because it gives kids the chance to be in control of the situation and be the professional. Of course, Matthew said he needed to drill out all my bones out. (I wonder what little girls are like, LOL).
Our dentist gives the kids that really pink tablet to chew. It has artificial dye among other things, so if your child is sensitive to dyes or artificial stuff you may want to skip that part. I also let the boys take a beanie baby stuffed animal to hold in the dentist chair. My dentist gives kids gum at the end. If your dentist gives out treats, you may want to have a little something in your pocket to trade with them in case the something given isn't acceptable to your choosen diet or sensitivities.
2. We used to go take pictures of the dentist's office house, the dentist, the examining room. We made a little story (see the things parents can do when they don't even know anything about social stories .. knew nothing like that back then, just thought about it and it made sense)
Then we read the story we had made.
"this is the chair you will sit in"
"this is Dr. So-n-so, the dentist that will look at your teeth"
We went through the whole story of what will happen. in what order.
spoke to dentist previously to learn what will happen and what order.
The dentist was nice about it. Also, we had a practice visit at the very beginning of the day before any other patients came. We just went to go look at the room, the instruments, and the people
3. My son was OK *going* to the dentist, he just went ballistic when the dentist tried to do anything in his mouth. What worked for us was letting him listen to his favorite CDs with noise canceling headphones. Calmed him down very quickly.
4. Another friend took a bunch of polaroids around the dentist's office and of the people that would be working with her son and made a book of "Going to the Dentist" which she read over and over again to her son. This made it a very familiar place and he wasn't as scared when he got there.
5. Our dentist had our son come to her office every week for six straight weeks for what she called "happy visits." She actually does these visits for all her kids to get them comfortable in her office; most kids only need one or two, if any, but my son has a lot of sensory issues and needed more. Anyway, during these happy visits, my son would go into the dental office, sit on the chair, lower and raise it, play with Mr. Thirsty and Mr. Squirter (those things that
suck and squirt water), have one of the dental assistants count his teeth (as a prelude to having them examined), then pick out a color rubber hand glove and watch the dentist blow it up with air. Then he would get to pick a prize out of a basket and play with it on the floor of the office for a while while watching other patients in the office get worked on.
Also, my son actually did have some cavities to be filled, and when time came to actually fill his cavities, the dentist let him play a Nintendo game (a non-violent one), which thrilled my son to no end and distracted him to the point where she could actually get his teeth worked on - no shots, either. Perhaps your dentist could be talked into some kind of happy visits? They made a world of difference to my son.
6. If your child is really small and you can do it, take them to your dentist with you. Mine let my daughter sit on my lap and watch [sometimes putting her face up to my mouth as he worked] a number of times before we took her to the dentist. It helped A LOT!
7. We took our then 4yo son to a highly recommended dentist who deals with special needs kids. Since it was at the hospital, I wrote a social story, took pictures of the route we would take (from the outside of the hospital to the actual room where the check up would occur) and we read the story twice a day weeks before the visit. We were given a plastic brush which they use to clean the teeth and we practiced cleaning his teeth with it (tying it on to a chopstick!) We also presented a small plastic dental mirror in his mouth twice a day. A battery-operated toothbrush may help in desensitization (of noise and feeling). Use that often prior to the appointment. If it's more than a check up and a cleaning, speak to the dentist about possibly visiting just to sit in the chair, get used to the environment etc. The key is a good, patient, understanding dentist though.
8. I know this is going to sound really wierd to the rest of you... but, for my son, when it comes to "open your mouth"... just "counting the teeth out loud" while I do anything is a big help... he knows how many teeth he has, so by counting, he can tell when "the end is near"...
for a dentist, if something is wrong with a tooth, just saying, "this one is broken... let's fix it" will work... he has a good understanding of "let's fix that".
see Sensory Integration Issues and Gut Reaction
Abbreviations often used