Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a somewhat controversial topic in the medical community. Some physicians, including my children’s primary physician, either do not believe that it is a real condition or they feel that it is simply a symptom of another issue.
For a while, I tended to agree with these “experts”. I had noticed a few unusual quirks in some of my kids, such as constant chewing, intentionally crashing into the floor, and seeking out upside down positions, but I felt that these were effects of their ADHD.
Because I didn’t look at SPD as a real, standalone condition, I wasn’t sensitive to the special needs of children who have it, including my own. Over the past few weeks, though, I’ve come to think differently about SPD. I’m slowly accepting the reality of sensory processing disorder and what it means for our family.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
SPD is a complex condition. It generally manifests itself in either underresponsiveness (child feels too little) or overresponsiveness (child feels too much).
Kids who are underresponsive may seek out sensory input through rough play, touching everything in sight, shouting, and chewing on inedible objects. My kids fall into this category.
Kids who are overresponsive may avoid or run away from regular activities because the sound, feel, or taste of something is too strong for them to handle.
Interestingly, SPD is not a straight-line condition. Kids may be overresponsive in some areas and underresponsive in others. You can have a child who shouts at the top of his lungs all day just to get some auditory stimulation, but cries after tasting a pretzel because the texture is too hard for his mouth.
How I Knew Something Was Wrong
Now that I’m back at home with the kids on a full-time basis, some of their behaviors seem a bit more blatant than they did before. Tigger, for example, chews ALL DAY LONG. She’s chewed her fingers quite a lot over the years.
When we started helping her take care of her nails, she switched to chewing on her hair. She was even sucking her locks. I’d never seen anything like that before. We worked with her on that habit and we thought things had improved.
Then, one day after naptime, we noticed these large circular bruises on both of her arms. We were horrified. “What did you do???!!” She had been sucking on her arms before falling asleep. It seemed like when we helped her stop using one object for oral sensory input, she’d simply switch to another and another. That was when I realized we were dealing with more than just a bad habit.
I’ve read quite a few books on SPD recently and I’ll share my insights from those in an upcoming post. But, noticing that my kids were not “getting better” made me realize that SPD wasn’t going anywhere and that we’d have to deal with it in order to help our kids thrive.
Other Sensory Processing Disorder Resources
- Sensory Processing Disorder – SPD Foundation
- What is SPD? – Sensory Smarts
- How Does SPD Affect Learning? – The Out-of-Sync Child
- Kids Who Feel Too Much – Parents
- Sensory Processing Myths – The Inspired Treehouse
Books about Sensory Processing Disorder
- The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz
- Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel
- Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals by Angie Voss
- The Sensory Child Gets Organized by Carolyn Dalgliesh
Are any of you dealing with sensory processing disorder with your kids? What challenges have you faced so far? Have you had any trouble getting support from your physician or your family? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.