Monday, September 2, 2013

Sensory Processing (Disorder)

It took me about a week to finish and publish this.
I wavered because I am not a clinician to diagnose Sensory Disorder.
But its something I experience every day in some form with my children. In fact, my son has received OT (Occupational Therapy) to assist some of these fine motor and sensory components. I definitely observed an improvement in these areas with the assistance of his OT.
I was unsure how this would be received but overall, I just wanted to share information and make awareness, which is why I frequently referred to the website.
You know how that wool sweater makes you want to rip your skin off because its too itchy?
You know how you can not STAND the sound of someone chomping their gum?
Does the scent of lotion just overwhelm you?
Does eating jiggly foods like jello just creep you out for no explainable reason?

Are your kids like that? Do you not really understand why they react to certain things the way they do? Could it be a problem with their sensory integration?

**these items in the image above are not all concrete examples. SPD is complex and while some of these may be present in your child it neither automatically qualifies that your child has SPD or means that all children with SPD are the same.

According to the SPD Foundation Website : Sensory processing (sometimes called "sensory integration" or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or "sensory integration."

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.  

What's the big deal?

Well, it can be a big deal if this interferes with daily life. Getting dressed can be a huge issue for children (and/or adults) with SPD if they don't like the feel of certain materials. For example. My Paige will not wear jeans. She will not wear corduroys. She will not zip her coat all the way up so that the collar touches her neck. She insists her shirt be adjusted "just so" beneath the seatbelt so it doesn't crumple. --- Is she just really particular? Maybe... but if we don't do these things...all hell breaks loose.

I don't want to get too heavy here... I just want to bring some awareness that maybe after the 37th meltdown over fabric choices, or the fact that your son refuses to eat ANY crunchy foods.... maybe they're telling you something more.

According to SPD Foundation website
Sensory Processing Disorder can affect people in only one sense–for example, just touch or just sight or just movement–or in multiple senses. One person with SPD may over-respond to sensation and find clothing, physical contact, light, sound, food, or other sensory input to be unbearable. Another might under-respond and show little or no reaction to stimulation, even pain or extreme hot and cold.

My experience
I am in no way qualified to make an official diagnosis of SPD. However, I do have 2 children with some major sensory issues. One is a seeker in many ways... and one is avoidant.
 I am a special education teacher for severely disabled students many of whom have SPD issues.

There are RED FLAGS for SPD that if you find yourself checking off too many for your child you might want to look at the SPD Checklist which can be an excellent tool when speaking to a doctor because you have already written the facts to reference.

And...just to show you how different kids with Sensory Issues / SPD I labeled a diagram with my kids initials.
*indicates that my kid(s) identify with this in part.

There are tons of amazing resources out there for parents if you are unsure if your child may be struggling with SPD.... reach out, get some intervention... it makes a difference!

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