Child with Oppositional Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. Help!


I am a P.T. seeing both children and adult patients. I am seeing a 4 year old child diagnosed with sensory and speech impairments and oppositional disorder. He has shown significant improvement in both sensory and speech areas. His teachers are concerned that he can’t understand other students personal space. He seems to often want to grab them or sit near
them (or even sit on them) and the children ask him to move away or not touch and he doesn’t seem to understand it makes them uncomfortable. Does anybody know any articles or any advise I can give the parents or his teachers. Thank you Jackie P.T.

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7 Responses to Child with Oppositional Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. Help!

  1. Ellen Liversidge says:

    When I worked in an elementary school as a speech pathologist in Prince Georges County, Maryland, we had a little first grader with Asperger’s…the first teacher got “fed up” with the boy so we moved him to another class. The very pragmatic teacher marked a wider space around his desk with blue duct tape on the floor so that he wouldn’t be tempted to touch anyone else. All the students, and he, accepted this as the natural order. Problem solved.

  2. Mandy says:

    Hi Jackie, thank you for your posting. We do hope that our community of Therapists may be able to offer some advice.

  3. Diane Beebe Zeccola says:

    Dear Jackie,
    Thank you for sending in this question. It is actually a common problem among students with SPD. It sounds like your student may also have some impairment in higher level neurodevelopment functioning that is compounding the situation. This problem has to be addressed on a daily basis not just when he is disturbing classmates. The teacher needs to make opportunities or students to practice spatial awareness and social boundaries through dramatic play . Using tape on the floor and around the desk will help but ultimately he has to learn self control. So that involves play schemes which stress delayed gratification, getting excited and then calming oneself down and dealing with disappointment etc. It Is a combination of activities which stress the above and give the kids a chance to reflect on their own behavior in a supportive group setting. He may aslo need greater proprioceptive experiences to anchor himself in space. Parents need to be involved and lots of careover to home is very important. Good luck!

  4. Theodore says:

    try having him and a peer both holding a hula hoop around themselves and use that to role play a conversation

  5. John Pagano says:

    Hi Jackie,
    One suggestion I have is to consider reinforcing the child (with praise, a toy, and other things you find causes him to repeat behaviors) for going progressively longer not touching children with out asking. I do a game where a child is also reinforced for asking “can I touch you” consistently before touching others. If the child has a Speech & Language Pathologist you can check with her for the best way to communicate so your child understands (both how the child requests permission to touch others, and whether visual and/or verbal prompts are most affective in getting the child to not sit on or touch others with out permission). Initially I’d encourage the other children to try ignoring the getting too close to others to help the child first learn to stop touching and sitting on others with out permission.

    It’s also important for your team to acknowledge the successes the child’s already made with your help in language and behavior at such a young age where it will help his future. Behavioral and language improvement is a gradual and challenging process. My favorite books for kids with oppositional defiant disorder is the explosive child and Treating the explosive child by Ross Greene. Good luck, John

  6. Sheila says:

    I would suggest writing a social story for him regarding personal boundaries/space. Make sure that the story first discusses the situation(s) in which you are having the problem and include what the other children and adults feel. End the story with a positive about how giving people personal space makes them happy. I often use a hula hoop to help teach the boundary and then it can become an imaginary hula hoop space. The social story can be discussed with all the kids. It should be read with the child several times a day (not when the situation is occuring) and then referenced during those times of crossing boundaries (“remember the story about hula hoop space?”).

    It definitely sounds like he needs more proprioceptive input incorporated throughout the day. If it is not possible for the teachers to provide this to him then they can incorporate activities for all of the kids to do that target his needs. This can be doing animal walks when transitioning around the classroom, brain gym, and yoga breaks. I use the YogaKids cards and allow kids to pick between a few cards.

  7. Mandy says:

    Message from Cindy, OT
    Check out Michelle Garcia Winner and her social thinking network. She has a character called space invader that helps kids understand about others personal space. Great social thinking curriculum. I use it in my own practice.

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