SPD – SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER
I am a parent of 2 kids with spd and this my understanding of spd and how it affects our lives.
SPD is also called Sensory Integration dysfunction (SID). Sensory integration is the process by which our brains interpret the information which they receive from our senses. So very simply put, if a kid has SPD their brain will interpret the message’s they receive differently to someone without SPD. The message that their brain receives is often inaccurate or unreliable which can result in them acting in a way which may appear be to difficult or naughty. Some children have difficulty with one sense whereas other kids have difficulty with more than one sense. Every child is unique and the way that SPD affects them is going to be different to other kids grouped under the same category.
SPD is often broken down into 2 very BROAD groups – sensory avoiders and sensory seekers. And as I have come to realise it is not unusual to have one kid who is a sensory avoider and their sibling ends up being a sensory seeker (this can be a bit challenging but sometimes the sensory seeker can actually help the sensory avoider to try new things that they would normally have avoided).
Here are some examples of how SPD can affect some kids (this is no where near a complete list):
- Everyday noises may be amplified and can cause distrease (shopping centers and crowds can be a big problem for these kids). Some kids may end up covering their ears and even start shouting if it gets too much, others may just shut off and appear to be in their own little word ignoring everything and everyone.
- Noises life vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, the hand dryers in public toilets can be very distressing.
- Light touch could be interpreted as painful by their brain (some kids have been known to find the feeling of rain or the water from a shower painful).
- Some kids may avoid being hugged unless it is a tight hug and some kids will try and wipe off a kiss on their face.
- Having their hair brushed or hair washed can be extremely painful for some.
- Clothing can be a big issue. Some battle with certain textures and some battle with the seems on the clothing. Sensory kids often love spending the day in soft PJ’s.
- Walking barefoot on cold surfaces or rough textures can be upsetting. They may resort to always walking on their toes.
- Light may be distressing. A good pair of sunglasses can become their most valued possession when they are out and about. Also a hat with a peak can help.
- Eating can also be an issue, the texture can cause issues as can the smell of certain foods.
- Some children will flap their arms or hands excessively when they are battling to process something which is happening
There is a very comprehensive checklist of the website below :
When you start to think of what everyday activities can be like for these kids it is no wonder that they can get overwhelmed and can find what we could consider a normal situation very distressful. You can also start to understand why kids with SPD often battle with transition. They are constantly worried that the next situation is going to be stressful.
Occupational Therapy has been one of our life-lines and now after around 2.5 years of therapy my eldest has improved so much both in what she can tolerate and her ability to understand what is happening and how to manage it. We have until very recently had a house rule that we only did one outing a day. And we never broke this rule. Without this rule we would have had a constantly overwhelmed, miserable kid who never got time to decompress and process what had happened. We also have used Body Brushing with huge success, however I have heard from other families that this was not successful with them. ( It is called the The Wilbarger Protocol for Sensory Defensiveness). Ensuring that the kids have lots of opportunity throughout the day for deep pressure is also vital. This can take the form of jumping on a trampoline, letting them crash into a mattress or big bean bag and using Pilates balls to roll on their backs.
I want to end this by saying that in my experience kids with SPD tend to be kind caring kids who love to play and have friends just like other kids they just need a bit of help in understand what is happening.
The book that explained it all to me is The Out of Sync Child By Carol Stock Kranowitz (affiliate link)