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What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

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Healthy and happy…That’s what every good parent wishes for their child. But what happens when your child is struggling? What if they are displaying behaviors and symptoms that indicate they are not one hundred percent happy or healthy; that something might be off? As parents, we dig deeper. We search for answers to find help for our babies.

Some parents of children with sensory processing disorder may notice this behavior very early on. If you have concerns that your child isn’t reaching and passing their milestones as you believe they should be, you may want to seek the assistance of an Occupational Therapist to determine why they are delayed.


What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing disorder occurs when sensory signals are either not detected or don’t get organized into appropriate responses, according to The STAR Institute for Sensory Processing disorder.
SPD doesn’t always look the same with each child. There are three primary “pattern types” of SPD:

  • Sensory Modulation Disorder
  • Sensory-based Motor Disorder
  • Sensory Discrimination Disorder

Within these pattern types, however, there are many subtypes. Simply put, SPD symptoms vary dependent on the individual.


Ways Sensory Processing Disorder Affects Children

Sensory Processing Disorder

Red flags for SPD can present themselves as early as infancy; often times starting out as difficulty eating or sleeping. For example, one symptom of sensory processing disorder is an aversion to textured food. You may observe your child not wanting to eat baby food, especially if it has even the slightest bit of texture which may even cause them to vomit.

As children get older, their symptoms develop further. Sensitivities to touch, noises, smells, clothing and other people aren’t uncommon. Some children, for example, can’t tolerate their hands or feet being touched. Simultaneously, they may also crave deep pressure stimulation, which is explained as “firm but gentle squeezing, hugs, or holding that relaxes the nervous system.” Teens and adults with SPD frequently have trouble concentrating, can be impulsive, and often have poor self-esteem.

SPD is one of many “hidden handicaps”. Parents are sometimes criticized by outsiders because their child looks normal but is struggling with a disorder that is out of their control. Breaking down these assumptions begins with spreading awareness of SPD. Additionally, this disorder is not widely known just yet and spreading awareness could help children get the treatment needed with this disorder.

SPD left untreated may cause secondary symptoms, such as behavioral problems and poor self-regulation of moods and anger. This is why it is so important that treatment begin as early as possible. If you are concerned that your child has SPD, getting them evaluated by an occupational therapist that has training in SPD is a great place to start.


Diagnosing Sensory Processing Disorder in Your Child

Sensory Processing Disorder

Author of Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children With Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Lucy Jane Miller, PhD writes, “Early diagnosis leads to early intervention. The sooner an accurate diagnosis is made, the sooner intervention can begin. Many children and their families suffer needlessly for years because of sensory issues that could have been addressed if a sound, professional evaluation had determined that Sensory Processing Disorder was present and treatment had begun sooner.”


Parents of children with SPD may ask themselves, “How did my child develop this?” or “Is this my fault?” There are many factors that may determine why a child might have SPD, one of them being that it can be hereditary. SPD is still being researched and all the answers aren’t there just yet. As parents are made more aware of this disorder and more research is conducted, clearer answers will hopefully be revealed. If you think your child may be suffering with Sensory Processing Disorder, seek professional guidance to get them the help and treatment they need.

WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on 6 Ways to Calmly Respond to Your Toddler.

What Is Sensory Processing Disorder

Sources: STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder, Applied Behavior Analysis

Photo Credit:  Unsplash

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I am a father of three and my wife is a registered nurse specialized in children.

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