Okay, So What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

I was born on the Day of Research so as soon as I heard the words Sensory Processing Disorder I hit the ground running.  I read and I read.  My eyes turned to saucers as I read an article that literally described a little boy who could have been my son.  I got on Amazon and ordered the two most suggested books about Sensory Processing Disorder.  The Out of Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz and Raising A Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel, and Nancy Peske

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.  (Smitha Bhandari, MD “Sensory Processing Disorder” WebMD 31 May 2016).  So what exactly does that mean? When someone has SPD information coming in through the senses isn’t processed properly and this misinterpretation of input can lead to issues with mood and/or behavior. Sensory input can be anything from sights, sound, lights, touch, smells and tastes and movement input (where your body is in relation to space).  Any information we receive through our senses.  A person with SPD will often overreact or under react to what others consider “normal” amounts of sensory input.

Sensory Processing Disorder is a spectrum disorder which means there is a wide range of symptoms.  Most people are affected by one or more types of sensory processing symptoms, but they are not usually enough to affect everyday functioning. For example, some people do not like seams on their socks or tags in their clothes, so they buy seamless socks and tagless clothes or they cut off tags from their clothes. Other people do not like the way lotions, oils, bug sprays or sunblock feels on their skin so they will avoid using these products.  Some people love the way textures and fabrics feel so they are constantly touching everything. These examples by themselves are often manageable but people with true Sensory Processing Disorder often have multiple sensory seeking or sensory avoidant behaviors that disrupt everyday life and functioning.

I found this to be a great article about sensory avoiding and sensory seeking behaviors. Some SPD people are seekers,  some are avoiders and some have a combination of both.

SPD can also affect your proprioceptive system and your vestibular system.  The proprioceptive system tells the brain where the body is in relation to other objects and how to move. (Arky, Beth “Sensory Processing Issues Explained” Child Mind Institute).  The Vestibular System, which is a contributor to our balance system and our sense of spatial orientation, is the sensory system that provides the dominant input about movement and equilibrioception. (“The Vestibular System“, SPD Australia).  Both systems play an important role in everyday functioning.

A “normal” person isn’t bothered by the touch of their clothes against their skin, but to someone with SPD the feel of certain materials against their skin might make them feel like they are on fire.  A child with SPD might be sensitive to light touch so they may be fine in small groups, but if they are put in a large group of children where the kids are touching and bumping and poking each other the SPD child might meltdown, run away from the group or push a child that touches them because they can no longer handle the sensory input.

Often when children get overwhelmed by sensory input they go into a”fight, flight or freeze” response.  They will “Fight”- Get angry or irritable or rage, they will have a meltdown or tantrum, they will kick, push or hit.  The will “Flight”- the might panic, cry, try to run away or try to remove themselves from the situation, they will try to hide or they will withdraw.  They will “Freeze”- they won’t move or speak or respond, they will just curl up and get quiet.

Phew… Are you overwhelmed yet?  Yeah, me too. . . where a child is frustrated and

Sensory Processing Disorder is not a well-known disorder and many pediatricians, doctors, and teachers do not know about the disorder.  Children silently suffer and get labeled as behavior problems, when in reality they are suffering from SPD.  Parents get made to feel like horrible people who don’t discipline their children, or who don’t discipline them correctly and people feel the need to tell parents of SPD children they are doing a shit job of parenting.  They are not.  They are doing the best job they can often not knowing that SPD is the cause for their children’s behavior.  This needs to change.  We need to educate the doctors and teachers and other people who come in contact with children so they can help point the parents of SPD children to helpful resources so they can help these children and the earlier the better. . .

This is another step forward on a very long, very hard and tearful journey towards helping my child.

Sensory Seekers and Sensory Avoiders

Sensory Processing Issues Explained

The Vestibular System

The Out of Sync Child

Raising a Sensory Smart Child

This is Part Four in the SPD Series
Read Post One Here: The Day My World Came Crashing Down
Post Two Here: Trying to Move Forward and Getting No Traction
And Post Three Here: A Spark of Hope


One thought on “Okay, So What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

  1. Pingback: What Now? | Learning Simple

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