What is Sensory Processing Disorder and what every parent needs to know!

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

One study says that 1 in 20 kids have Sensory Processing Disorder (http://spdfoundation.net/files/9614/2430/1228/ahn_miller.pdf) that’s at least 1 child in every classroom. But, most parents don’t even know what it is.  And beyond that, the medical professionals, teachers and therapists that do know what Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is, are few and far between. Chances are that if you haven’t wondered if any of your children have sensory challenges then you may know another child that does.

What exactly is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and why do you need to know about it?

We actually have eight senses: touch (tactile), taste (gustatory), sight (visual), sound (auditory), smell (olfactory) and there’s three more vestibular (balance, coordination, spatial orientation), proprioception (sense of muscle and joints) and interoception (internal regulation for thirst, hunger, etc.) . Sensory Processing Disorder occurs when the brain receives mixed messages. Basically it’s the way the brain processes the senses.

Have you ever wondered why your child refuses to wear pants (tactile)? Doesn’t notice that their face or hands are dirty (tactile)? Refuses to eat crunchy foods (taste)? Prefers to dump all the toys on the floor (sight)? Loves loud noises or hates loud noises (auditory)? Gag’s at the smell of certain foods (olfactory)? These are just a few examples of everyday occurrences that are actually sensory related.

Here’s an example from our family. As long as we can remember anytime we have given Miss Sensory a kiss on the cheek or forehead and instead of a typical response of joy and love we get anger, crying, swatting at us, and disgust. Why? Miss Sensory has tactile challenges so instead of her brain registering that touch as good it registers it as painful

What you need to know as a parent if you have concerns that your child (or a child you know) has sensory challenges:

  1. It’s real. Your concerns are valid and SPD does exist. It may not be as simple as your child is being defiant even though it may seem that way.  Sensory Processing Disorder can cause a lot of disruptions to daily living that look like defiance.
  2. There is help! If you’ve sought help and you’ve been told by a million professionals that everything is normal, remember you are the parent, you know your child better than anyone. Because of the lack of research and awareness for Sensory Processing Disorder it may take some pushing to find the right person to help. Generally, a pediatric Occupational Therapist will be able to evaluate and treat SPD.
  3. No two sensory kids are alike. Just like the saying for autism “If you’ve met one child with Autism, you’ve met one child.” Every child has a unique set of senses that register differently. Your child may have challenges with touch but absolutely no challenges with taste.
  4. Your child WILL live out a full and amazing life. If your child does have sensory challenges, yes they may need to adapt to certain things. Like, wearing ear muffs at parades to tolerate the sound. But, your child will amaze you at the areas that they are not only able to cope with but overcome.

Why it’s important:  Sensory Processing Disorder can effect a child’s ability to function in everyday life.  Knowing that it might be more than just your child not wanting to wear socks can make all the difference.   Imagine trying to get a child ready for school that feels pain from their clothing and doesn’t want to wear shoes. Working with an occupational therapist can greatly increase the child’s ability to function in life and process everyday situations.

If you are looking for more information here’s some great places to start:

A checklist of signs and symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder.

The book The Out-of-Sync Child  (affiliate) by Carol Kranowitz is a great read to better understand Sensory Proocessing Disorder.

Angie Voss, an occupational therapist has an amazing website with lots of resources.

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2 thoughts on “What is Sensory Processing Disorder and what every parent needs to know!

    1. sensorymom@outlook.com Post author

      Hi Vickie, No Sensory Processing Disorder is not Autism. Some, people that have Autism Spectrum Disorder also have Sensory Processing Disorder. However, some have Sensory Processing Disorder but do not have Autism.


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