Adolescence is a time of rapid and erratic growth. Growth spurts or delays in adolescents are associated with the physical, cognitive, and social-emotional domains. Developmental pace varies from one teen to another. Despite the awkwardness, insecurities, and vast potential that are part of this life phase, the outer, adult world has expectations.
What Are Teens Expected to Do?
Pay attention. Participate. Complete schoolwork. Get good grades. Do chores. Follow the rules. Eat healthy.
It’s no wonder that adolescents may retreat to solitude, or seek time away from home and school. What about the teen who is experiencing sensory issues? These may or may not be overtly apparent to the young person and the people in her/his life. With adolescence being a time of change, including increases in peer relationships and influence, sensory issues may be disregarded as just another teen phase.
The prevalence of sensory processing concerns as being 10-55% “among children without disabilities” (Critz, Blake, Noguiera, 201 , p. 711). The prevalence is higher in children with overarching diagnoses, including autism, dyslexia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). One source advises pediatricians against the use of sensory processing disorder as a diagnosis because of the variability in descriptive frameworks. Although this advice is reasonable, it presents complications for parents, educators, and therapists who strive to research and plan programs for adolescents with sensory integration needs, with or without a diagnosis.
An understanding of the body’s sensory structure and integration across systems supports awareness of the challenges faced by those with processing concerns. Arky (n.d.) summarizes these, detailing that internal senses of body awareness and movement supplement the five outward senses (para. 7). Awareness of sensations from the organs rounds out a person’s sensory mix (para. 8).
Arky (n.d.) goes on to describe a “sensory gym” that is comprised of various components based on a young person’s needs (para. 11-12). These include techniques and tools for deep touch, those that focus on vestibular health, and others to alter sensory stimulation in a child’s surroundings. Approaches that can be integrated within home and school settings enhance an adolescent’s potential for success. This outcome is crucial for life quality, especially as an individual prepares for further study and/or work after high school completion.
SMARTfit™ equipment that is available in school and community settings provide adolescents with the opportunity to progress with sensory integration programs in a setting with peers. Studies of Out of School Time (OST) programs have demonstrated that it is meaningful for youth to engage in activities with their peer groups (Cater, Machtmes, & Fox, 2013, p. 8; Deschenes, Little, Grossman, & Arbreton, 2011, p. 7).
One benefit of SMARTfit™ when planning for teens is its quality of being “highly customizable for the individual or group training. This allows the therapist, teacher or instructor to modify and adjust the activity in multiple ways to fit the needs of the individual or group” (Multisensory Fitness Inc., 2014, p. 7). This benefit helps to address concerns related to adolescent retention in exercise and/or therapy programs.
A Boys and Girls Club in North Carolina reports that girls who would otherwise spend time “hanging-out” have self-selected to join the SMARTfit physical education programs. This same club notes that use of SMARTfit reduces staffing because of its interactive qualities. The interaction types are each adolescent with the technology’s components, and the exchanges that occur among peers. This program attribute is supported by OST studies that find a shift from adult supervision to adult support encourages adolescent retention. Youth are in the process of becoming autonomous and thus prefer activities that are supported by adults rather than those that are supervised. (Cater, et al., 2013, p. 8; Deschenes, et al., 2011, p. 7).
To learn more about SMARTfit’s approaches for addressing the challenges experienced by children and youth with sensory processing issues, please call 1-800-900-8542 x 110.