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Could Your Child Have Sensory Processing Disorder?
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  • Around 15 percent of the world’s total population lives with some form of disability, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO). Two to four percent of them experience significant difficulties in functioning. 

    There’s also been an increase in the prevalence of psychosocial and developmental problems, shares Dr. Alexis Reyes, one of the leading developmental and behavioral pediatricians in the country and technical adviser to the Autism Society Philippines.

    Out of every 1,000 individuals, 10 will have intellectual disabilities, two to seven with autism, two to four with cerebral palsy, 78 to 90 with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or learning disabilities (LD), and one to two with hearing impairment.

    “Social problems are not that easy to see,” Dr. Reyes shares. “This is very sad because we are probably not aware that there are so many children and so many individuals who are actually having difficulties [but] can still be integrated into society, given intervention.”

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    The good news is by knowing about the red flags, or noteworthy clinical signs, parents and experts can identify children at risk for problems. These indicators can be tracked through regular developmental screening. Dr. Reyes shares an age-by-age guide so you can give your child a developmental health check.

    Age-by-age red flags for developmental delays

    Newborn

    • Eyes: cataract, opacity, nystagmus (involuntary repetitive eye movements), does not blink or focus
    • Ears: does not respond to loud sounds
    • Posture: seems stiff or floppy
    • Movements: asymmetrical 
    • Physical dysmorphisms (something different with the child’s appearance)

    4 months old

    Head control 

    • Head falls back and does not remain upright when lifted from a supine to a sitting position
    Standing up
    • Cannot push down or bounce on legs

    6 months old

    Gross motor skills

    • No head control
    • Cannot sit with help
    • Seems stiff or floppy

    Fine motor skills

    • Does not reach out for objects

    Language

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    • Does not laugh or squeal
    • Does not turn head to sounds
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    10 months old

    • Does not crawl
    • Cannot stand when supported
    • Does not search for hidden objects
    • Says no single words like “mama” and “papa”
    • Does not respond to name 
    • Does not use gestures like waving or shaking head
    • Does not point to objects or pictures

    15 months old

    • Does not speak at least at 15 words
    • Does not know function of common objects like brush, telephone, bell, fork, spoon
    • Does not imitate actions
    • Does not point to body parts

    2 to 2 ½ years old

    • No words or sentences
    • No imitation
    • No following of instructions
    • No walking
    • No vision or hearing
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    3 years old

    Typical child abilities:

    • Jumps in place, kicks a ball, balances on one foot
    • Knows own name, age and sex
    • Has self-care skills
    • Shows early imaginative behavior
    • Uses sentences of three to four words, short paragraphs

    Red flags:

    • Waddles when walking
    • Uses little or no speech
    • Does not seem aware of other children, adults
    • Does not follow directions
    • Does not engage in imaginative play
    • Engages for long periods of time in repetitive behaviors
    • Has pronounced fears and phobias
    • Avoids looking at pictures or pointing at pictures
    • Cannot tolerate change or frustration without frequent tantrums

    4 to 5 years old

    Typical child abilities:

    • Can hop, heel and toe walk
    • Can draw a circle, square and triangle
    • Can speak in sentences
    • Can identify letters, name colors
    Imitation is good and better social behavior is evident

    Red flags:

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    • Behavior issues, extremely aggressive, fearful, timid, passive or aloof
    • Language concerns: cannot speak in sentences, communicate needs or understand two-part commands
    • Motor concerns; cannot jump, run, hop or is clumsy
    • Learning readiness issues; cannot hold a crayon, recognize letters or colors
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    Warning signs of autism

    0-12 months

    • Doesn’t look much at people’s faces
    • Not interested in social games
    • Little affection
    • Happy to be left alone
    • Poor response to own name
    • Doesn’t like to be touched

    After 12 months

    • Eye contact abnormal
    • Limited pleasure in games
    • Poor play skills
    • Poor response to name
    • Doesn’t respond to gestures
    • Takes hand or parent to get object
    • Unusual sounds
    • Head/finger mannerisms

    Early clues to learning difficulties

    Preschool (3-5 years old)

    • Fails to recognize letters of his/her name
    • Difficulty remembering name of letters, numbers or days of week
    • Seems uninterested in playing rhyming games
    • Mispronounces words
    • Speech delay

    Kindergarten (5-6 years old)

    • Fails to recognize and write letters or write his name
    • Has trouble breaking spoken words into syllables
    • Has trouble recognizing rhyming words
    • Fails to connect letters and sounds

    By observing your child’s activities, abilities and behavior, you can better communicate your concerns to your pediatrician if you notice any red flags or warning signs. 

    “Share your worries with your pediatrician,” emphasizes Dr. Reyes. “Most pediatricians have been trained to see this.”

    Sensory Processing Disorder

    Did you know that there are actually seven senses in total? Aside from the senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste, we also have the vestibular (balance) sense and proprioception sense (awareness of your body parts relative to space). However, in some kids, the senses are compromised, thus affecting the way they learn.

    A common health condition involving the senses is called Sensory Processing Disorder, also known as Sensory Integration Disorder, Sensory Integration Dysfunction, and Dysfunction in Sensory Integration. Those who have it are unable to receive or organize responses to the brain correctly, even though their senses work. This becomes a challenge since our senses help keep us safe (by reacting accordingly, as when we encounter something strange or painful), and help us learn.

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    Fortunately, there are now specialized centers in the metro to help address kids’ sensory needs.

    Hatch, a newly-launched center at The Podium in Pasig, is the first to bring Open Play to kids with special needs. The multisensory gym offers therapeutic benefits, which can be done by a parent and even without a therapist. It's a good alternative to therapy centers where waitlists can often be long. If the parent allows, open play can also be child-led and unstructured for more experimentation.

    The learning process can be inhibited in children with SPD. Sensory Integration Therapy can help immensely.
    PHOTO BY Stephanie Esguerra Olarte
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    The newly-opened Hatch at The Podium offers Open Play, a multisensory gym that offers therapeutic benefits. 
    PHOTO BY Stephanie Esguerra Olarte

    Recent research shows that children who receive Sensory Integration interventions in addition to other treatments achieved greater improvements in their ability to function in daily life. Hatch is fully-equipped for Sensory Integration Therapy, and with the assistance of Sensory Integration therapists certified in Hong Kong, can assess your child and develop a program specially designed for his needs. 

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    This article was last updated on June 7, 2019 at 9:45 p.m.

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