Children with special needs have a variety of biological challenges that affect their ability to function. Although there are many ways to describe these individual differences, for the purpose of considering how they influence development it is useful to divide them into three types.
Difficulty with sensory reactivity. The child may have difficulty with modulating information received from the world through their senses of vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste, and body awareness (i.e., the child may be under reactive or over reactive, or a combination).
Processing difficulty. The child may have difficulty making sense of the sensory data they receive. For example, a child’s hearing may be keen but they may not be able to distinguish sounds in the foreground from sounds in the background.
Difficulty with motor planning and sequencing. The child may have trouble making their body move the way they want, and difficulty planning and executing responses to information they have taken in. For example, a child may be interested in cars but may only be able to put them in a line rather than play out a purposeful sequence where the cars drive along the road and park at the store.
Each type of challenge makes it difficult for the child to relate to and communicate with their parents and caregivers and thus impedes their ability to learn, respond, and grow. Therefore, to help a child progress, we must understand how they function in each of these areas. Once we have pinpointed his specific challenges, we can begin to design treatment programs to ameliorate them. An effective support program includes helping parents and caregivers learn how to work around these challenges to help the child learn, relate, and grow, and discover their unique interests and strengths.