What is sensory processing?
Sensory processing is the way that our senses take in information and decide whether to acknowledge it and take the information to the brain. The brain then decides whether a response is needed. It is happening all of the time. For some people, sensory information goes into the brain but can be processed in an unexpected or different way to most people.
A child might be more sensitive in one sensory area and less sensitive in another. More-sensitive children are often referred to as hyper-sensitive and may avoid some sensory input, for example, if it’s too loud or noisy they might cover their ears. Less sensitive-reactive children are often referred to as hypo-sensitive and may seek out sensory input, for example, banging toys together to achieve the desired noise. These are the child’s sensory differences or sensitivities.
In Derby, we have a graduated approach to supporting children with sensory processing difficulties.
Universal support means support that is available to all children and young people.
Children and young people with sensory processing differences will initially be supported by front line staff and practitioners who have awareness of sensory processing differences. It is the SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) responsibility to provide or secure this training for setting and school staff. All school staff and early years practitioners should have had some input or training in understanding sensory processing differences and have access to support from the SENCO.
Children and young people who continue to experience sensory processing differences that impact on their inclusion in school will be supported by school staff or early years practitioners identified within the setting with a specialist interest in sensory processing and with additional knowledge and skills in this area. This will be the SENCO or Autism Champion.
A specific plan will be written for your child and this will then be reviewed with you to make sure it is making an impact.
The Derbyshire NHS Occupational Therapist (OT) service offers training primarily for parents and carers in Understanding Sensory Skills in order to support their child however setting and school staff can also attend (two places are allocated per family). Families can self-refer by contacting the administrative team on 0300 123 4586 (option 2 and then option 5) from Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm.
If your child still needs additional support, this will be led by specialist practitioners, for example, specialist teachers or education practitioners, educational psychologists or SENCOs.
Specialist practitioners can be employed or commissioned by the school or provided by the local authority. If your child has an EHC plan, you should discuss this as part of your review meeting with your EHCP Officer. If your child doesn’t have an EHC plan, contact your school SENCO to talk about the right way to access further support.
We’ve produced a graduated response document for children with sensory processing difficulties which has been shared with schools across the city. If you are worried that your child is not getting this support, contact your child’s SENCO.