Hypersensitivity and Occupational Therapy

By Bushra Masood

It is an abnormal sensitivity to a substance which does not usually have a negative effect on the body such as seen in autistics child. Some of the most common problems in autistic individuals experience are their hyper- or hypo-sensitivities to sensory stimuli. Their senses seem to be too acute hypersensitivity or not working at all.

Autism is a neurological condition that often leaves the nervous system out of sync with the environment around it. Occupational Therapists trained in sensory processing disorders often develop sensory diets to calm and organize the nervous system to keep it within the optimum range of arousal.

A sensory diet is a carefully scheduled routine of sensory activities, given throughout the day, to help keep the nervous system calm, organized, and focused. It is a carefully balanced set of sensory activities that are implemented periodically throughout the day to keep the nervous system within the optimal range of arousal. This lowers anxiety, increases focus and maximizes the child’s ability to learn and adapt to daily demands. Usually, the sensory diet is a set of activities to calm and organize the nervous system when over-aroused, and alert the nervous system when under-aroused. When the child is over-aroused, calming and organizing activities are given to stabilize the nervous system. When the child is under-aroused, alerting activities are given to increase the arousal level. Once the nervous system is in the optimal range of arousal, then a steady dose of organizing stimulation can maintain that state of readiness.

General Calming Activities

  • Deep pressure massage
  • Sitting on bean bags, large body pillow.
  • Sandwiching, pillow press.
  • Lap pads
  • Deep pressure or weighted vest.
  • Bear hugs, neutral warmth.
  • Slow rocking
  • Lotion rubs
  • Soft lighting
  • Soft, slow music.
  • Joint compressions
  • Stretching
  • Chew gum
  • Sucking
  • Fidget toys
  • Calm, rhythmic movement patterns.

General Alerting Activities

  • Brisk rubbing.
  • Tickling.
  • Chewing gum, chewy food.
  • Any push/pull, run, skip, jump, heavy lifting.
  • Fast, irregular movement swing, trampoline, therapy ball.
  • Kick, bounce, and throw a ball.
  • Strong tastes and odors peppermint, perfumes.
  • Bright lighting.
  • Loud, fast music
  • Coldwater play.
  • Fidget toys.
  • Drinking carbonated drinks.
  • Sitting on T-stool or air cushion.
  • Physical exercise.
  • Dancing

Every activity is not suitable for every child. Take professional advice and then start any exercise.