Our senses help us understand the world around us. They include sight, taste, smell, sound, touch, proprioception (sensing where one’s body is in space), and balance. Sensory input from the environment is processed by the brain by its elaborate connections. The sensorimotor strip in the brain is responsible for relaying the sensation of touch throughout the body, as well as proprioception and kinesthesia (ability to sense your body moving in space.)
Because hemispherectomy removes or disconnects the sensory strip on one side of the brain, sensation, proprioception, and kinesthesia can be profoundly affected. The affected arm and leg will have reduced sensitivity to heat, cold, and pain, as well as touch and pressure. Parents and caregivers should be aware of these sensory issues as the child may not react to hot items or may have broken bones which are undiagnosed.
This may include aversity to certain food tastes or textures, sensory-seeking behaviors such as biting/chewing on toys or pencils, or similar behavior.
Children with sensory processing disorder may over-respond to sensation and, for example, find clothing uncomfortable. Anecdotally, some parents report that after hemispherectomy their child may over-react to light, sound, certain food or play item textures (e.g. Play Doh or shaving cream), and find them unbearable.
Difficulties with proprioception, kinesthesia, and vestibular/balance are also a common complaint. Parents, caregivers, and therapy professionals should be aware of all sensory input which may affect the child’s ability to succeed at home, with peers, and in the educational environment.
In some children, sensory processing disorder may be diagnosed. Appropriate therapy interventions should be commenced to addressed sensory challenges as soon as possible.