What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or Sensory Integration Disorder (SID)is a common problem of children, and often misunderstood or mislabeled.

With an out-of-the-box child, determining if there are any underlying sensory issues could have a HUGE impact in your home! Have you ever been told or noticed that…

Your child is clumsy, always falling or running into things?

Your child complains or throws a tantrum over getting dressed or wearing shoes or socks?

Your child is constantly doing things that could be deemed thrill seeking?

What is Sensory Integration?

Sometimes it's easier to understand what something is by knowing what it is NOT. In our case, we need to understand what normal looks like.

Sensory Integration refers to the normal neurological developmental process where the brain organizes information as it is received from its own body and the environment. It then interprets this information.

It‘s all about information processing.

Can Adults Have It Too?

Everyone has sensory sensitivities! For the most part, they don't affect the quality of your daily living.

Interestingly enough, it is a condition that affects up to 5% of the population. It begins in the womb and continues throughout life. The first seven years are golden because that’s when the most influential development takes place.

Children who have Sensory Processing Disorder will turn into adults who have SPD...BUT have acquired coping strategies.

I have a friend who buys clothes by how they feel. I have a relative who has to remake beds in hotels because they don't feel right. I can't stand a turtleneck because it makes me feel like I'm choking. Hmmmm

How the Brain Works

This is how your brain deals with sensory input (in a nutshell).

1. Our neurological system takes in information through the senses.

2. The brain organizes the information and tells the body what to do with it.

3. The body acts how the brain tells it to.

What Makes It a Disorder?

The disorder part of this comes into play when the brain incorrectly evaluates the information and then sends out the WRONG messages. It is an inability to interpret information. The term SPD is actually an umbrella that covers many different areas.

The best book out there on Sensory Processing Disorder is called The Out-of-Sync Child . Carol Stock Kranowitz is an expert on Sensory Processing Disorder and offers explanations and education in a clear manner.

If you even suspect that your child may fall into this category, she is a must-read.

Co-exsisting Conditions

Sensory Processing Disorder is not a psychological disorder. It is a neurological or physical one. Having said that, it CAN exasterbate other issues, including phychological ones. It can co-exsist with other conditions such as ADD/ADHD, Autism, Aspergers, learning disabilities, dyslexia, non-verbal learning disorder.

This is why it get's so sticky. It can overlap and mimic other issues, causing mislabeling and misunderstanding of the actual problem. The number one mistake seen over and over is to label a child with SPD as ADHD. They look a lot alike, but are actually very different!

It is important to distinguish and accurately diagnose SPD.

Follow the Path of Your Child

According to Carol Stock Kranowitz, there is a path to follow if you suspect your child has a Sensory Processing Disorder.

1. Recognizing

2. Diagnosing

3. Coping

4. Treating

You will need the assistance of a pediatrician or occupational therapist to recognize and diagnose SPD. Once a diagnosis is made, the specialist can pinpoint exactly which systems are not functioning properly, and form a plan of attack called goals.

The coping part boils down to learning to live with and parent a child with SPD. It involves finding the right treatment for your child, learning to use a sensory diet, and finding a balance between you and the rest of the world who may or may not understand.

I cannot tell you how many people offered unsolicited, negative advice that boiled down to: needs more punnishment.

Can you imagine how relieved I was to find out that one of her problems (a huge one) was a neurologically based disorder, and not the result of poor parenting skills?

Life in the war zone is not fun!

With a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, it feels like the Calvary has come to the rescue.

Now What?

I would like to add a fifth phase to the path of the SPD child: growing.

Growing a sensory strong child takes time and a huge amount of patience. You won’t see results right away, so learn to rejoice in the little things.

For us, getting into an occupational therapy program helped a lot. Not only did our therapist work with our daughter, but she gave us a ton of information to use at home. We learned how a sensory diet is as important as a nutritional one, and how to create and use adaptive equipment to meet her sensory needs.

And I hold on to the hope that as she grows and matures, she will become more adept in dealing with her sensory issues.

Life is never dull, that’s for sure!