What is Sensory Processing and Sensory Processing Awareness Training - run by Bedfordshire Community Health Services

What is Sensory Processing?

This is the ability to feel, understand, tell the difference between and respond appropriately, both physically and emotionally to sensory input from our bodies and the environment. This includes noise, vision, taste, smell, texture and touch.

We receive a great deal of information from our senses. We use this information in many ways to help us understand our body, understand the environment, and successfully interact in the world.

Some children are over responsive or under responsive to sensory inputs, and this can impact on their daily activities. A child can be over responsive in one sensory area and under responsive in another. There are many contributing factors.

Sensory Processing difficulties

Some children have sensory processing difficulties. Children with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder can have sensory processing difficulties associated with their diagnosis.

Children with sensory processing difficulties can be very sensitive to certain sensations such as noise, smell, texture or touch. They might try to avoid these sensations through certain behaviours. Other children are not very sensitive to certain sensations such as food around their mouth, movement or body position. They might actively seek sensations through behaviours such as chewing non-food items, fidgeting or being generally on the go.

This can really vary form one day to another, and can look very different for different children. When children have difficulty processing sensory information it can make every day activities challenging.

Sensory integration therapy

Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) Integrated Care System recently completed an evidence review for sensory processing to understand effectiveness and impact of interventions to support children with sensory processing needs. The recommendations concluded that we will not currently offer sensory integration therapy in BLMK as it is not an approach that is recommended by the Royal College of Occupational Therapy, or by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (health and social care evidence-based guidance).

Our evidence based approach in BLMK is centred on changing the things around the child, such as the environment, the child’s activities and their personal factors, such as parent/carer knowledge and understanding (through parent/carer and education information and training programmes).

Where can I go for more information?

Bedfordshire Community Paediatric Occupational Therapy Service have created a 25 minute online presentation titled Sensory Processing Awareness to give more details on Sensory Processing Difficulties and what strategies could be used to help children with managing these difficulties. 

Parents have found the following ‘top tips’ information useful. This has been produced by Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Trust.  

If you think your child has sensory processing difficulties you can talk to any health or education professionals working with your child. They will help you unpick your child’s behaviours, and whether or not they are sensory, or have another cause. For example it can be that children with high levels of anxiety display higher levels of sensory sensitivity, or children who are struggling to communicate can use sensory behaviours to gain attention.

The following video will give you information on sensory processing and its role in your child’s everyday life.