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Preview: Making Sense of Sensory Processing Disorder by Erin Kelly-Allshouse

Self-regulation begins with life itself. Babies begin a magnificent journey gestating in their mother’s dark, watery womb and are fully engaged in the process of preparing to be born.

From the moment an infant is brought from that warm, dark space into the light of day, they adapt to sights, sounds, and sensations with limited capacity to self-regulate on their own.  Instinctively a baby will suck when their feelings get too intense or they feel overwhelmed.  They completely depend on soothing love from caregivers to be rocked, gently stroked, and talked to softly to help increase their tolerance for more stimulation as they grow

Self-regulation and sensory integration

Child development pioneer Jean Piaget’s theory is that from birth to two years is the beginning of the sensorimotor stage. Sensory Integration is a normal, neurological, developmental process that continues at every stage. the integration process occurs in the central nervous system and is thought to take place in the mid-brain. this part of the brain is responsible for things like coordination, attention, arousal levels, emotions, memory, and higher cognitive functions. Simply put, sensory integration is the ability to take information in through the senses—taste, touch, smell, vision, hearing and movement, and put it together with prior information, memories, and knowledge stored in the brain, to have a meaningful response.

Developmental psychologists agree that a good start in regulating emotion during the child’s first two years contributes greatly to autonomy and mastery of cognitive and social skills. neurons travel to different parts of the brain, forming synapses that wait for proper stimulation. Babies are born programmed to learn and every experience using their senses helps stimulate those synapses to create trillions more. Cognitive development progresses with the baby’s use of the senses and movements in exploring their world. the next two important realms of language and imaginary play develop quickly from this stage into the preoperational stage. Then there is the third realm—the world of Sensory Processing Disorder; the unforgiving zone imposed by nature, where the pathways of the brain are not properly integrating the stimuli coming through the senses…


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