Handbook of Infant, Toddler, and Preschool Mental Health Assessment

By Rebecca DelCarmen-Wiggins; Alice Carter | Go to book overview

13
Sensory Modulation
Dysfunction: Identification
in Early Childhood
Lucy Jane Miller
JoAnn Robinson
Debra Moulton

For decades, large numbers of infants and toddlers have been identified by occupational therapy clinicians as having sensory-related disorders (Bundy, Lane, & Murray, 2002; Roley, Blanche, & Schaaf, 2001). These disturbances have been termed sensory integration dysfunction(Ayres, 1972a; Cermak, Koomar, & Szklut, 1999; Kranowitz, 1998; Parham & Mailloux, 2001). Among psychologists and other mental health experts, there has been widespread recognition of a problem for infants and toddlers that has similar sensory components and is termed regulatory disorder (Greenspan & Wieder, 1993; Greenspan, Wieder, & Simons, 1998). It is important to illuminate the similarities and differences between these two diagnostic categories in order to advance toward a broader, more comprehensive understanding of sensory disorders in early childhood, to increase the clinical utility of terms, and to increase effective communication for more focused prevention and intervention.

The overall objective of the chapter is to familiarize mental health professionals with the existence of these sensory problems and to highlight the importance of evaluating sensory processing difficulties when determining a diagnostic formulation in young children referred for a variety of behavioral difficulties. First, we provide a brief discussion of definitional issues and compare and contrast mental health and occupational therapy perspectives of sensory-related disorders. Second, we provide an overview of the developmental issues relevant to the understanding of sensoryrelated disorders. Third, we provide a discussion of sensory modulation dysfunction (SMD), including a brief description of related empirical evidence. Finally, we review the clinical implications for assessment of sensory-related disorders and conclude by highlighting the questions that remain to be addressed in future research.


DEFINITIONAL ISSUES

This section clarifies the definition of various terms used in the area of sensory-related disorders within the field of occupational therapy (OT) and by the National Center for Clinical Infant Programs (NCCIP). Within OT, this classification scheme was developed in relation to a condition

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