How Play Therapy Can Help
Treatment for sensory processing disorders is typically provided by Occupational Therapists and play centers. An occupational therapist will visit the child in their home or school and help de-sensitize them from the senses they find troublesome. If they have difficulty interpreting space they may be invited to participate in games that require balance and strengthen coordination, such as use of a therapy ball. (See Rib-it-Ball)
If they have hearing sensitivity then the use of music therapy is commonly practiced. Music tracks with high pitched frequencies are designed to re-train the brain to hear sound correctly. It is a slow process and may be difficult at first but the benefits can be life changing. Toys that use gentle noises might also help. Audiologists have a similar approach to treating hyperacusis in their hospitals, with pink noise therapy (a device that resembles a hearing aid and emits varying frequency pitches into the child’s ear, eventually ‘re-booting’ the brain’s auditory processing).
Children with tactile defensiveness could benefit from a range of toys that help the child explore different textures in a non-threatening fun way. Messy play like play-doh, finger paint pots, sand toys, ‘funny foam’ or games involving water could help him build up a tolerance to different textures, as can soft toys made using a variety of fabrics. They may be resistant at first but if the parents and other siblings play with the toys in front of them, they may eventually be enticed to join in. Occupational therapists can play and explore textures with the child in a controlled way so that the more resistant child can be introduced to it in a way that feels safe to them.
Play Ability soft toys can begin the de-sensitization process for even the youngest of children and can be used for children with visual perceptual problems too. The toys are made with bright, colorful and contrasting patterns to stimulate a visual response.