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Sensory Processing and Genetics Link



Following on the topic of sensory processing and genetics this week in our Facebook group about Understanding sensory processing, it seems this is quite an area of interest.


For parents who go through the diagnostic pathway here in 'Tamaki Makaurau' Auckland New Zealand; will understand that genetics comes up, some parents these days (depending on your pediatrician or psychologist) are asked to do a genetic test; but what about those that may not have a diagnosis yet; but want and deserve to know that their child may be struggling with sensory processing challenges and they do not wish to seek a diagnosis.


Let me just list a few of the reasons sensory processing challenges may be present:

1) Genetics

2) Birth trauma

3) Birth complications

4) Premature births

5) Environmental factors

6) Retained primitive reflexes

7) Neurodevelopmental diagnosis or disorders

8) Physical and medical diagnosis


These are just a number and a very few list of some reasons why sensory processing disorder can exist.


Is this to say that sensory processing disorder cannot exist on its own, no!

It surely can and unfortunately again here in NZ and Auckland, Sensory Processing Disorder SPD is not seen highly enough as a primary diagnosis.

SPD is often a secondary diagnosis particularly when it comes to children who may have autism or ADHD, they have underlying sensory processing disorder and or anxiety which is seen as co-morbid to their primary diagnosis.

But what if we can get down to the root cause find out it is sensory processing concerns are, support those sensory behaviors and the environment, provide the right strategies for the child to be able to cope.


Retained primitive reflexes is a huge area in which I support and maybe one of the primary reasons why sensory concerns can be present. We are all born with primitive reflexes to keep us safe and to help us stay alive, and they usually integrate after the age of 12 months (the basic ones).There are a lot of reflexes, however we breakdown and look specifically at the basic primitive reflexes. Occupational Therapists who are trained in primitive reflexes will be able to assess and treat this.

Did you know that a retained Moro reflex can actually contribute and link to vestibular processing challenges; things like motion sickness, difficulty with balancing, decreased hand eye coordination.

Did you know that Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex ATNR if retained and not properly integrated can actually cause visual perceptual challenges and may cause concerns when in primary school with kids in their reading and writing. Imagine if we can integrate these how much more these kids will not have to struggle in their reading and writing, in terms of balancing and keeping up with their peers in their play. So many functional skills may be able to be resolved if their functional concerns if the primitive reflexes are improved.

But it is not a cure and it is not the only answer I have seen massive changes in children whose reflexes have been integrated who are then able to process their vestibular information and to be able to then pick up new gross motor skills from observing their friends and joining in with their friends, but things like anxiety and other neurodevelopmental disorders can still be present.



So how about things like the pregnancy and the birth these can often not be helped, you do the best that you can as a parent and some things can still happen that are out of our control. It's really important you have someone you trust and have a great relationship with to help you on your journey.

Some minor examples that may cause some concerns through pregnancy include Hyperemesis, (severe sickness), a viral infection, alcohol drug use, smoking, toxic chemical, radiation or severe stress. Out of balance chemicals. Things like a placenta previa, a breech, a caesarean, a cord wrapped around the baby, fetal distress or premature or postmature birth; and the list goes on. It is also not to say if you've had any of these things happen in your pregnancy or your birth experience with your child that they will have sensory processing disorder absolutely not. Again it is really important to know we all have sensory preferences sensory processing disorder only exists when two or more of our senses really impact our daily functioning, so much so that we cannot do things on our own or it really impacts us in that environment to process or modulate the senses around u. But there are always some days when some senses might be more heightened than others it's not to say it's SPD.


So in knowing all of this, what can we do.

Well we know a lot more than we used to and we have so much more awareness and understanding in birthing in neurodevelopment and development in general. So the most important thing you can do is to seek professional advice if you are unsure. It is not required as a parent to know al about these areas, primitive reflexes and SPD etc. Seek out a trusted and trained Occupational Therapist or health professional to support your journey and your child’s sensory processing.

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