#121 - Sensory Q&A - Answering Your Questions from Instagram!

by Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC September 30, 2020

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Sensory Q&A - Answering Your Questions from Instagram!

Today’s episode is all about YOU - answering questions from our Instagram fam! Topics included in this episode: the visual-vestibular-auditory triad; vision therapy in OT; how to measure progress; primitive reflexes; baby backpacks vs. wraps; tips for regression in school-aged children; sensory integration and trauma; how to assess if a toddler needs OT services; attention and sensory processing; emotional regulation; tips for nail and skin biting / picking; adults with disabilities. 

Rachel and Jessica, the creative minds behind 'All Things Sensory', are passionate about engaging with their audience through social media. With an eagerness to answer any inquiries they may receive from listeners, they have noticed a commonality in these questions - so they decided to bring together answers for some of the most popular queries here!

How Is The Visual-Vestibular-Auditory Triad Connected?

Our sight, hearing, and vestibular systems are intertwined in a complex relationship that provides us with the ability to comprehend our environment. By combining these senses, we acquire key postural control abilities such as balance maintenance and focus enhancement. In addition, body awareness and numerous other skills become accessible to us.

Our sense of where we are in space - otherwise known as the vestibular system- impacts all areas of life since it is responsible for movement throughout our body. Every time we move or tilt our head, this activates the vestibular system while also sending signals to eyes to track the same motion. The importance of our visual-vestibular system can be best understood when we take a drive - like knowing precisely when to safely enter traffic at the stoplight.

Operating a car is an excellent example of how this fragile balance works. When you’re behind the wheel, it's essential to remain alert and aware of your environment while also monitoring the speed and direction of other vehicles in order to make sure that when turning or merging onto another road there won't be any collisions. If you're visual vestibular system isn't working properly, not only does it become increasingly difficult for you stay out of harm's way but if something goes wrong then you can find yourself in deep trouble quickly.

We emphasize crawling during infancy due to its benefits in sensory integration and spatial awareness, by connecting vision with the vestibular system. The process starts as early as tummy time with a caregiver rocking or bouncing an infant. Rolling further activates this visual-vestibular synapse followed by crawling that allows infants to explore their environment more freely.

Have you thought about stimulating the visual-vestibular-auditory triad while your baby is still in the womb? Even basic movement, like swaying on a chair or using an exercise ball to sit and stand can ensure that these systems perform optimally at birth. Remember when they are born - they were used to always moving within you, so if this stops abruptly it will be quite disorientating for them!

Could you share any resources about how to support the vision system?

Our 'All Things Sensory' podcast features two incredible episodes that offer a wealth of knowledge. First is with the brilliant Dr. Johnson, a local vision therapist here in Boise - definitely give it a listen! The second episode covers an important topic: Vision or ADHD? Don't miss out on this valuable content for both kids and adults alike.

How Can You Determine If An Intervention Is Beneficial?

Initially, you must guarantee that the standardized testing is conducted reliably and identically every time. Additionally, it's critical to have a thorough comprehension of the test itself while also performing practice runs and taking notes in order to maintain uniformity.

Subsequently, create achievable goals that are appropriate for your child's level of growth. This not only let you track progress but also allows you to progressively increase the challenge as your child continually meets each milestone.

To successfully make progress in the areas that are difficult for their child, families must collaborate together to set achievable goals. It's not enough to only work on it during therapy sessions; working on these issues at home is essential so everyone can see improvement. With collaborative effort, each family will be rewarded with signs of success!

What is better for babies' development: baby backpacks or baby wraps?

Instead of pushing a stroller or lugging your baby around in their car seat, wraps and backpacks are much better options. Not only do they provide natural movement to keep your infant healthy, but they also free you up to move with ease too! Plus, it's so much easier than having to transfer them from one type of device to another every time you go somewhere different.

Above all else, it's essential to ensure that your child is in the correct position. Don't have them facing forward before they're ready- focus on making sure their hips are positioned properly. To get a better understanding of how to secure baby correctly, explore our show notes for visuals and more information about hip dysplasia prevention too!

Another great way to get natural movement is by carrying your baby in your arms or on your hip - this will cause their head to be placed in various positions. Keep it interesting and don't do the same thing every day - variety is key! That's what I want you all to remember here.

What Tips Do You Have To Slow Regression For Primary School Age Children?

To begin, regression is a natural occurrence due to the ever-changing nature of life. It's normal for children to revert back when they are acquiring new knowledge and skills as part of their growth process. It's a positive sign that your child is growing, which could mean that they need something new in their life.

This can be an indication to explore fresh opportunities or just require more help with daily duties. With this being said, try to remain optimistic and look at the bigger picture. As difficult as it may be for you whether you are a parent, therapist or educator we want to encourage you to identify the root cause if feasible and address it accordingly.

How Does Trauma Affect Your Sensory System?

Trauma can have a profound effect on an individual's sensory system, leading to sensory sensitivities, difficulty regulating emotions and physical responses. Traumatic events can lead to the body being overwhelmed with sensations it is unable to process - such as loud noises or strong smells - and the mind becoming flooded with memories it is unable to manage.

This can cause a person to become extremely overwhelmed, or even shut down, in situations that resemble the traumatic event. People may also develop sensory avoidance where they start avoiding certain environments, textures and activities as well as having difficulty tolerating loud noises or bright lights.

Therapy can be incredibly beneficial for those who are struggling with the effects of trauma on their sensory system. Occupational therapy, specifically, is geared towards helping individuals develop coping strategies to manage their experiences in a safe and effective way.

Regardless of the cause, it’s important to remember that you are not alone in this journey and there are plenty of resources available to assist you on your path to recovery.

Does My Child Need Occupational Therapy For Their Sensory Issues?

To start, parents rely on your instincts. If you suspect something is amiss, don't be swayed by other people's opinions and take action right away. I understand that many assume occupational therapists can only help when children are older; however, the earlier assistance begins for a child, the better off they will ultimately be.

A referral for support by an occupational therapist may be made when your child displays behaviors such as sensory sensitivities, emotional dysregulation, difficulty with self-care skills, gross and fine motor delays, and/or decreased attention span. An occupational therapist will be able to assess your child’s current abilities and provide interventions that are tailored to their specific needs.

They can also offer guidance on how best to support your child in their environment, whether at home or school. The amount of therapy that is required will vary from person to person, so it’s important to work with the occupational therapist to ensure you are getting the most out of each session.

How Can You Tell If Its An Attention Issue Or A Sensory Processing Issue?

Our lives are inundated with sensory input every second of the day, and if our bodies cannot correctly process this information it is impossible to focus or pay attention. It's a clear distinction between ADHD and sensory processing issues that you can see, feel, and understand.

Let's use the vacuum for our example. When it is turned on, a child with sensory processing challenges typically will cover their ears and have a strong reaction. However, even if you turn the device off and then back on again soon after, they are likely to react in an identical manner each time.

If a child is exhibiting more signs of ADHD, they will likely cover their ears when the vacuum cleaner is turned on. However, with each successive time it's switched on, there'll be less and less reaction until eventually the sound has been 'modulated', meaning that despite having attention issues they don't actually have sensory processing problems.

Therefore, it is vital to observe how the responses change over time in different scenarios. Additionally, the following areas should be examined:

  • Vision: when a child cannot visually process the world around them, any type of vision issue must be ruled out since it will drastically impede their ability to focus.
  • Auditory processing challenges: if a child is experiencing troubles with hearing, or any difficulties to process auditory information such as Central Auditory Processing Disorder, it can be mistaken for ADHD.

Summarily, it is essential to assess all aspects of a child's sensory system before diagnosing any issues.

How Does Your Sensory System Impact Emotional Regulation?

Depending on the type of sensory input, it can be calming or exciting for us. For example, if someone enjoys listening to music and finds it relaxing, than that would be considered calming input from their sensory system. Alternatively, if someone enjoys roller coasters as they provide an adrenaline rush, then that would be an example of exciting input.

It is important to note that when our sensory systems are out of balance, it can impede our ability to regulate emotions and other behaviors. When this imbalance occurs, a person may start to experience difficulties with emotional regulation, whether it's due to feeling over-stimulated or under-stimulated.

For those struggling with over-stimulation, it's essential to supply calming input like massage therapy utilizing deep pressure, weighted blankets and rocking chairs. In contrast, for individuals who are under-stimulated, activities such as playing catch or jumping on a trampoline can prove beneficial in managing their emotions better by providing stimulating inputs that would help them explore the environment around them.

How Can You Help Your Child Stop Biting Their Nails and Skin?

Nail biting and skin picking are two common habits that children can have difficulty controlling. In order to help a child stop these behaviors, it is important to understand what might be causing them in the first place.

Sometimes nail biting or skin picking can be due to sensory seeking behavior which means that the person is looking for more tactile input. Therefore, it is important to provide various tactile experiences in the form of activities that can help satisfy this need. Examples would be using play doh or clay, gardening, art projects like painting and drawing, as well as textured toys and tools.

In addition to providing tactile input, another way to help a child stop biting their nails and skin is by introducing more calming activities. This can include deep breathing, yoga, stretching exercises, massage therapy or anything else that may help them relax.

Finally, it is important to be mindful of the environment that your child is in. If they are feeling overwhelmed or over-stimulated, then it's essential to create a safe space for them to relax and be at ease.

How Can We Support the Challenges Faced by Adults with Disabilities?

We must be honest with you - we do not specialize in working with adults who have disabilities. The people that we work closely with are aged 18-21 and they remain within our pediatric setting, as this is not an area of our expertise. That being said, we can still provide support for adults who experience difficulties due to their disability.

One way of doing so is by understanding the differences between the adult and pediatric world and accommodating them accordingly. For example, an adult will have different needs than a child in the realm of employment, social activities or living environment. Therefore, it is important to tailor the support we provide to their specific needs.

Another way of supporting adults with disabilities is by helping them set realistic goals and providing positive reinforcement when they meet or exceed those expectations. This will encourage them to strive for independence, while also learning how to better manage their disability-related challenges.

Finally, it is essential to be aware of the resources available in the local community that they can take advantage of. This could include support groups, job training programs and social activities that are designed to help adults with disabilities.

Want Your Question Featured

If this Q&A blog was helpful, and you have any lingering questions or comments that our team can answer for you, please do not hesitate to reach out. You can send these queries directly to us through email at  TheSensoryProjectShow208@gmail.com. We'd love to hear from you!







While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC
Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC

Rachel Harrington, COTA/l, AC, CPRCS, and Jessica Hill, COTA/L, CPRCS are Harkla's in-house Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA) and Certified Primitive Reflex Clinical Specialists. They have been working with children for over 6 years in outpatient settings. They specialize in creating easy-to-digest, actionable content that families can use to help their child's progress at home. Jessica and Rachel are the in-house experts, content creators, and podcast hosts at Harkla! To learn more about Jessica and Rachel, visit the Harkla About Us Page. Make sure to listen to their weekly podcast, All Things Sensory by Harkla for actionable, fun advice on child development.

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