Behavior Book Review: The Sensory-Sensitive Child

At the time of The Sensory-Sensitive Child‘s publication, “sensory integration disorder”book 4 was not a diagnosis included in the DSM-IV, and the American Psychiatric Association did not add it to the 2013 DSM-V either. Although it currently is not considered a “diagnosis”, sensory problems are well documented as associated symptoms in a variety of known neurologic conditions. The authors of this book refer to sensory integration (or “processing”) as a “lens” by which you can view the child.

After some discussion from the authors about their personal experiences, the book then describes the seven senses (including balance/position and posture).  The next section talks about sensory integration that refers to three processes: sensory modulation, sensory discrimination, and praxis.   “Praxis” refers to motor movements (which readers may think of as “output” if the senses are “input”).

The book then moves to an area of how to diagnose sensory problems and how to treat them.  Treatment involves adjusting the home environment, the school environment, and changing the social dynamic among peers and other parents, all while addressing commonly associated psychological conditions if they occur–the book has a nice chapter regarding ADHD/depression/anxiety in this population.

The discussion in this book is balanced, fair, and I would recommend it to a parent who is concerned that their child is “sensory sensitive.”  One question I had while looking up the DSM information was:  Why does sensory integration/processing need to be classified as a “disorder” or a medical “diagnosis”?  If parents and pediatricians are aware of sensory issues in children and refer them to the appropriate therapists, why a separate diagnosis?   Is it for billing purposes or is it to strive for greater legitimacy for a documented but hard to quantify phenomenon?

-Daniel Weissbluth

Weissbluth Pediatrics

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