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J Can Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2009 November; 18(4): 358–359.
PMCID: PMC2765395

Understanding Regulation Disorders of Sensory Processing: Management Strategies for Parents and Professionals

Reviewed by Julia Hunter, MD, FRCPC

Understanding Regulation Disorders of Sensory Processing: Management Strategies for Parents and Professionals.
P. Reebye , &  A. Stalker Jessica Kingsley Press,  2007.  160 pp, CA  $19.95. 

Self regulation capacities in infants and young children exist on a continuum. There have always existed “fussy”, colicky or difficult-to-soothe children. Until recently, many of these behaviors were considered within the normal range of development, and parents were often advised to wait until the child’s nervous system matured further before seeking interventions. Observation and monitoring was previously the first response with these disorders. However, as the authors Reebye and Stalker point out in this book, the impact of early experiences on the developing brain cannot be overestimated, and it is important to help children with sensory dysregulation as soon as possible.

Regulatory Disorders of Sensory Processing (RDSP) constitute a specific diagnostic category in the Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood (DC:0-3R). Prior to the 2005 revision, this group was referred to as Regulatory Disorders in the DC:0-3. The reason for this revision was to highlight the importance of sensory processing difficulties in this disorder. This change in nomenclature has led to increased recognition not only of the resulting difficulties, but also of potential comorbidity and differential diagnoses, thus allowing more effective targeting of appropriate interventions. Children with regulation disorders exhibit specific symptom constellations in sensory, motor and behavioural domains. Their symptoms are often difficult for parents to manage. Without appropriate interventions, children with these disorders may encounter increasing difficulty in typical daily activities which can then lead to further complications such as decreased self-esteem, ongoing difficulties with motor activities, increased behavioural and social difficulties and stigmatization, with specific challenges depending on their specific pattern of difficulties. In this work, the authors share many practical management strategies to help these children navigate their world, decrease their distress and hopefully mitigate potential complications from the secondary consequences.

“Understanding Regulation Disorders of Sensory Processing in Children” is an excellent resource for professionals and parents alike. The authors provide an easily understandable and practical resource to assist children with regulation disorders. The book contains thirteen easily read and well-organized chapters that are grouped into three sections. The first section includes a descriptive introduction to the topic of regulation disorders, a review of neurological development through infancy and childhood, and a clear explanation of the diagnostic criteria and assessment strategies used for treating patients with RDSP, as well as a brief review of useful assessment scales and the presentation of RDSP through childhood. The second section focuses on a review of the important aspects of a management plan and provides numerous practical management strategies. These strategies are further broken down by specific area of regulation difficulty (e.g. sensory, motor, physiological, affect regulation, etc.) which makes this textbook a practical resource for parents looking for specific strategies. The third section examines the impact of RDSP on school participation, social skills and family needs, and discusses related management strategies. Summaries at the end of each chapter help the reader consolidate the major points from each chapter and also allow for future easy reference.

A particular strength of this book is that the authors are able to make a complex diagnostic process very accessible to the average reader by use of case examples and graphical models. Using this format, the authors walk the reader through an assessment process, illustrating the various areas of functional impairment and how these evolve over time. Parents can then use this same method to reflect on their own child’s strengths, needs and current intervention priorities.

Other strengths of this book include the clear delineation of assessment (including specific questions to review with parents for each area of concern) and numerous specific management strategies for each area of functional difficulty. The book summarizes relevant background information including a review of neurological development, the basics of attachment/bonding and the importance of experiences and parent-child interactions on brain development. This information is particularly useful to help parents better understand their child’s situation in a broader context and potentially mitigate some of the frustration with seeing their child struggle with typical daily activities. Additionally, this text can be a useful resource for parents as they learn to better advocate for their children within their family and community.

Overall, this book is a well-referenced and comprehensive resource guide that covers a wide range of potential clinical situations and provides parents and professionals with practical suggestions for a variety of behavioural concerns. Dr. Reebye and Ms. Stalker have kept the language clear enough for non-medical readers but the content is sufficiently advanced to serve as a useful introductory text for health care professionals new to Regulatory Disorders of Sensory Processing.

Articles from Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry are provided here courtesy of Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry