Understanding Sensory Dysfunction: Learning, Development and Sensory Dysfunction in Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, Learning Disabilities and Bipolar Disorder
Understanding Sensory Dysfunction is a clear and comprehensive resource to identifying and addressing sensory dysfunction in children, using a range of practical strategies to help them reach their full potential at home, at school and in the community.
The authors explain the causes, contributing factors, symptoms and associated behaviors of sensory dysfunction, particularly when found in conditions such as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), ADHD and bipolar disorder. Focusing on early intervention, they provide a host of tried and tested integration activities, assessment and curricular modifications, treatment options and useful equipment and resources that ultimately aim to limit or prevent the interference of sensory dysfunction with successful learning, socialization and skills development.
This accessible and empowering book offers a unique approach to the condition and will help families, teachers and caregivers meet the particular needs of children with sensory dysfunction.
Reviewed by Maureen Bennie
Director, Autism Awareness Centre Inc.
Sensory integration is the organization of sensory information from the body and the environment. Healthy social and emotional development is linked to sensory integration. When a portion of the process of sensory integration is not functioning effectively or efficiently, sensory dysfunction occurs. Sensory dysfunction, sometimes referred to as the “hidden disorder”, can be a puzzling aspect of many disorders such as autism spectrum disorders, fetal alcohol syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, learning disabilities and bipolar disorder. Learning, development and behavior will be affected when sensory dysfunction occurs.
Authors Polly Godwin Emmons and Liz McKendry Anderson take the mystery out of sensory dysfunction in their new book Understanding Sensory Dysfunction: Learning, Development and Sensory Dysfunction in Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, Learning Disabilities and Bipolar Disorders. Parents and professionals new to sensory dysfunction will find this book helpful in understanding what is sensory integration and sensory dysfunction, how to assess it, and how to help these individuals be at their best both at home and at school.
The book begins with what is healthy sensory integration, supported by a developmental timeline for ages 0 – 5 years. Social and emotional development, often overlooked in other sensory books, is explored through a sensory lens. The second chapter looks at sensory dysfunction with sensory signs and systems broken down into the first year, the toddler, the preschooler, and the school aged child. This can be helpful in diagnosis because the parent or professional can look back on the child’s development, look at the dysfunction characteristics and see if there were earlier problems.
There are simple solutions and information bytes about all of the sensory systems and their dysfunction in the chapter about school. Teachers and educational assistants will find this section helpful because there are strategies listed for typical situations that occur throughout the school day and simple solutions to make the day run smoother. The “teacher as detective” explores situations that occur with sensory dysfunction with pre-behavior, the “never forgets factor”, point of view, analyzing the situation, and developing a strategy.
Behavior as a means of communication and how it relates to sensory issues is briefly looked at. There are some forms provided to create a student portfolio which can be used for communication between home and school, transitioning to other schools or agencies, and for extracurricular activities. How to set the stage for learning and modify curriculum is discussed succinctly with easy to follow steps for implementation.
The chapter on Home and School Strategies tackles the management techniques of sensory dysfunction. Discussing what doesn’t work for troublesome behaviors is helpful because we sometimes think time outs or ignoring behavior are solutions to difficult behavior that is sensory driven. Using preventative behavioral strategies can stop unwanted behaviors before they start.
The authors’ children, Ellie and Dylan, were discussed in their first book Unlocking the Mysteries of Sensory Dysfunction. They were five years old at the time and experienced sensory dysfunction. The last chapter of this new book is devoted to their progress over the past ten years. Highlighting such a journey provides insight and inspiration about growing up with someone who experiences sensory dysfunction. Children do change, but it can be difficult to imagine improvement when the child is a preschooler.
Understanding Sensory Dysfunction: Learning, Development and Sensory Dysfunction in Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, Learning Disabilities and Bipolar Disordersis a quick reference guide for both home and school with accessible information. It provides a great starting point for parents and professionals being introduced to the topic of sensory integration dysfunction.