- What is sensory processing disorder and how can I help my child?
- Causes, symptoms, and treatment of SPD
- Sensory processing disorder (SPD) kids: How they are different
- You know sensory processing disorder exists, so why don’t they?
- What to do when your sensory sensitive child has a meltdown
- Challenges your sensory sensitive child will face at school
- Occupational therapy for a child with SPD
- Can a child outgrow SPD?
- Does a weighted blanket help with sensory issues?
When I found out my child struggled with Sensory Processing Disorder, I had never heard of it before. All of the behaviors, challenges, food aversions, and tactile defensiveness suddenly made sense. What my friends thought was bad behavior in my toddler was really his way of dealing with the overwhelming sensory stimuli. When I found out what SPD really is, I was able to look at my child’s needs in a new way.
SPD is common and you should get support
Put simply, sensory processing disorder is when your child battles to process their senses. SPD actually affects 1 in 20 children so it is not that uncommon, but it can be very challenging to manage. Managing this complex neurological condition is doable with the help of therapists who can train your child to manage their responses to messages from the brain. As with all issues to do with our children, seek support, be kind to yourself, your child, and other family members. Patience goes a long way along with your favorite little vice, whatever it may be!
Kids with SPD have problems processing sensory input
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a term used to describe your child’s inability to process certain stimuli present in his or her environment. As such, children with SPD have difficulty with something called self-regulation, a process often seamless to many of us. For example, children with SPD may have trouble processing where they are located spatially in their environment so they will engage in repetitive behaviors such as rocking or hand-flapping in order to compensate.
Children with SPD may also be overstimulated by environmental conditions such as certain fabrics of clothing, loud noises, or certain textures of food. They become highly agitated when these conditions are present. Some intervention strategies and techniques that aid a child with SPD are occupational therapy, weighted blankets, or noise-blocking headphones that help with self-regulation, and desensitization.
SPD is a neurological disorder of varying intensity
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurological disorder where sensory information is perceived in an abnormal way. This may lead to any of the senses being affected including hearing, touch, or taste. The disorder is also a spectrum disorder and so severity will differ. Your child may have a mild or severe response to a stimulus and may experience a meltdown when a sensory overload occurs. Remaining calm and providing a calm place for your child to retreat from over stimulation are a priority. It is also important to remember that this is a neurological disorder and not a behavioral disorder.
Some children are over-sensitive and others under-sensitive
Our brains are constantly taking in information about our environment through our senses, such as touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Other types of sensing include balance, temperature, and proprioception (movement). When our bodies and brains cannot take in and assimilate this information normally, the result is Sensory Processing Disorder.
Some patients are hypersensitive to sensory input, and become overloaded by sights, smells, crowds, and even tastes. You may notice children with SPD avoiding messy play because they don’t like the feel of mud or anything else sticky on their fingers.
Some patients are considered under-sensitive–and so they are constantly seeking sensory input. You may find these children, commonly referred to as sensory seekers, engaging in more dangerous activities, such as crashing, banging, and jumping. Or you may find them constantly breaking their pencil points and chewing on their pens because they don’t know how hard to push when they write or they always need to be chewing to receive more oral feedback.
A good occupational therapist can help you pinpoint your child’s sensory needs and offer activities, such as heavy work (pushing or pulling heavy items to provide sensory feedback) for sensory seekers. Brushing can provide a means of desensitization for sensory avoiders. Items such as pressure vests and weighted blankets can be soothing to both sensory seekers and sensory avoiders.