Children can sometimes be triggered by flickering lights, loud noises, textures of food, and even scratchy clothing. These triggers may cause them to not be able to react appropriately to these things. When this happens your child may have a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). This is when the brain has difficulty processing things that come from the senses, such as sounds, smells, textures, and tastes. The part of the brain that deals with this information has trouble organizing and responding to the information. This can cause a child to be oversensitive or even under sensitive. SPD is usually diagnosed in children. What causes this disorder is unknown and there does not seem to be any way to avoid or prevent your child from getting SPD.
How severe SPD varies from person to person. SPD can only affect one of the senses or it could affect many or all of them. How extreme reactions are to certain triggers is also dependent on the specific person. Someone who has Sensory Processing Disorder may feel like normal clothing is too scratchy, normal lights are too bright, everyday sounds are too loud, when someone touches them it feels harder than what it is. They may also have behaviour problems, not handle change well, be uncoordinated in fine motor skills and big motor skills, and it be hard for them to tell where their limbs are in the environment. Normally SPD has coincided with autism spectrum disorder. Though this can be a stand alone disorder in some cases.
There are two spectrums of SPD. Oversensitivity or hypersensitivity and under sensitivity also known as hyposensitivity. Your child may only have one of these or have a combination of both.
Hypersensitivity is when your child will try to do sensory avoidance because they are feeling over stimulated. Some things you may see your child doing if they are sensory avoidant are; overwhelmed by people and places, they seek out quiet spots in noisy, crowded environments. They are easily startled by sudden noises. Normal brightness lights bother them. They refuse to wear clothes because they feel too itchy when made out of normal materials. They avoid hugging or touching other people. They have a strong reaction to the texture or smell of foods and refuse to try new foods. They get very easily upset with any change in routine or schedule.
If your child suffers from hyposensitivity they are going to seek more sensory activities. They will want to constantly touch objects. Play rough with others and take physical risks that could be dangerous. They may have a high pain tolerance. A sensory seeker may squirm, fidget, and have constant movement. They may invade others’ space, be easily distracted, clumsy or uncoordinated.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Usually the first sign of SPD is from behavior the parents notice. After talking with the pediatrician your pediatrician may refer you to an occupational therapist. The therapist will then evaluate your child after you describe your child’s behavior. The occupational therapist will want to watch your child interact and react in certain situations to see how they handle processing sensory activities.
Once your doctor has watched your child and sees how they respond in certain ways to things, they will then come up with a treatment plan. Treatment plans are made specific for a single patient. One of the key things though is to start treatment early. The sooner you get your child to work with someone the faster they will start to develop coping skills to deal with SPD. Usually treatment is done with a therapist. The therapy will be based on if your child is oversensitive, under sensitive or both.
One of the treatment therapies is called Sensory Integration therapy. This is where your child will be introduced to fun sensory activities in a controlled, safe environment. This will help them learn how to cope with different things, training their brains to know how to deal with something they can’t process properly. Them being in a controlled environment also will help them from becoming too overwhelmed.
Another treatment therapy is a Sensory Diet. This is not a food diet. This could be a list of sensory activities for home and school that your child should do on a daily basis. It could be access to fidget toys at school, ten minute exercise breaks to move their body around, or even headphones to listen to music to help them focus. These activities are to help stimulate the sensory seekers as well as help them stay focused and organized at school and home.
In some cases your child may also need occupational therapy. This will help them fine tune their motor skills. In a lot of cases of SPD the children also seem to be clumsy, and uncoordinated. Occupational therapy will help them with climbing, throwing, running, and even fine motor skills like using scissors or writing.
The treatment plan for your child with SPD should be conformed to your specific child and their specific needs. Not all SPD cases are the same, the spectrum of how severe it is can be a wide range. What your child’s brain has trouble processing can also differ from child to child. Getting them properly diagnosed and treated as soon as possible can help them learn coping techniques to where when they get older they will lead a normal lifestyle.
Read More: How To Overcome Shyness & Social Anxiety
An oversensitive or under sensitive child could be suffering from Sensory Processing Disorder. #HealthSurgeon
Someone who has Sensory Processing Disorder may feel like normal clothing is too scratchy, normal lights are too bright, everyday sounds are too loud, when someone touches them it feels harder than what it is.