Insight on Sensory Processing Disorder.
Updated: Sep 26, 2019
Before the birth of my daughter in 2016 I had never even heard of this disorder. My daughter was diagnosed with spd/autism at the age of 22 months . She went on a waiting list for this diagnosis at 14 months. Her symptoms for sensory issues was presence at birth.
According to the many therapist who have worked with her and the developmental pediatrician that diagnosed her she has the most extreme case they have ever seen. Which is why her diagnosis is spd/autism instead of reversed like it is usually given. This article is completely based on my personal experience,research,and what I've been told by the specialist that work with my daughter.
When I started my research on this I had never gave much thought to sensory input . I went about my days touching,tasting,hearing,and smelling. It's apart of most peoples everyday. We do it day after day no problem.We really don't even notice the sensory input we desire. Like the smell of clean bedding. The amazing smell of a latte before we take a sip. The feel of cashmere or a new pair of jeans on our skin. We pause enjoy that second and go on. This is not how it is for people who suffer from sensory processing disorder.
So what is sensory processing disorder?
Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD is a neurological disorder in which the sensory information that the individual receives gets muddled in the brain causing an abnormal response. The response factors can be over-responsive or under-responsive. A person with this disorder can suffer from one or both responsive issues. The human body actually has many senses. The 5 basic are touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste . Up to 8 senses have been identified to possible be affected by SPD . The 3 uncommon senses and what they do.
Proprioception - is an internal sense. It's your brains awareness of your body parts location without seeing them.
Vestibular - is located in the inner ear . It controls sense of balance.
Introception-is an internal sense. It tells you when your hungry,thirsty,hot,or need to go to the bathroom.
One or many senses can be affected. It is believed to be a sign or symptom of autism.
The cause of this disorder is unknown.
Signs and symptoms
Poor motor skills
Upset by certain noises and or covering ears to certain sounds. Like sudden loud sounds,vacuum,or even soft repetitive noise that others don't notice. Like water dripping or a fan humming. Or will create a sound to just hear it. Like banging toys together more often then normal. Dropping toys or objects to hear the impact.
Intense response to smell. The odors can be pleasant or bad. Child becomes extremely upset over certain smells or seeks out certain smells.
Refusing to touch certain thing and or reacting oddly over touch. Like hair touching hand . Pulling at tags on clothes. Not wanting to wear certain clothes. Rubbing a particular texture over and over. Avoiding or seeking touch from others.
Picky food habits. Only wanting to eat one brand. Only liking certain textures like mushy or crunchy. Gagging on texture they don't like. Wanting to eat the same thing every feeding. Liking food bland or overly seasoned.
Extreme crying , fit throwing ,and or acting in a self harming way for no apparent reason. This most often happens in a public setting like a restaurant or grocery store. It does happen in a home setting also.Certain things trigger this behavior like baths . It can be very hard to calm them down or console them.
Intense response to certain lighting. Becomes upset by certain lights on. Watches flashy lighted toys over and over. Puts flashy lights really close to face or eyes.
Therapy is done by an occupational therapist. Occupational therapy is a therapy that focuses on everyday activities for a meaningful life. Most likely your child is going to become upset during these sessions. The therapists goal is to expose the child to all senses and activities they do or don't like in a controlled environment to dull or heighten the brains response.
Ways you can help your child.
Being involved with your child's therapy sessions. I say this because after my daughter started therapy outside of the home the place she goes the parents don't go back with their children. I have sat in on every session with my daughter. This is crucial to implementing therapy for at home use. So unless the therapist has requested you sit out observe the sessions. Some tips to not being asked to sit out. In no way intervene the session. The therapist are specialist in what they do. Don't let your mommy bear instinct kick in. Even if she is crying and melting down. Save any questions you have or input you need for after the session. This is also going to help with if your child isn't clicking with the therapist . I highly suggest you give them a decent amount of time before requesting a new one. My daughter had a speech path she was with that just didn't work for her for what ever reason. We saw her for 3 months of my daughter crying during the whole session. I requested a new one . This is my rights and my childs rights for her therapies to be productive. If I didn't observe time could have been wasted by them not being a good match.
Create sensory input. Helping your child cope and desensitize the senses in play is going to be huge to help prevent meltdowns. Sensory boxes or water tables are great play for them . Don't push the play. Give them the exposure but let them do it at their pace. Keep it fun.
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A calm down place or thing. Sensory swings ,weighted blankets or diy calming bottles. My daughter actually came up with her own calming place. We have a L shaped couch and she sits in the corners on the floor when she is over stimulated or upset. We take a portable dvd player with us on all activities away from the house to give her a focus point in public. I hang the player on the basket with the same thing we use in the car. Having the player has eliminated 90% of her public meltdowns. I have only used my phone in the event of us forgetting her player. One I don't want my phone broke if she has already reached meltdown point. Two I wanted it to be an item she could relate to as her personal belonging and she was 18 months when we started this. So a cute pink dvd player made more sense for us. She is 3 now and we only bring the player out of her bag if we see a meltdown coming.
Keeping a routine or visual flow chart. This has been huge for us. When we just went with the flow of things it caused a lot over stimulation for her. She melted down a lot and didn't sleep well. I don't use a visual chart. Being a stay at home mom I keep a routine in place . In the event of something happening out of her routine I explain where we are going and doing. I make everyone go with her routine. Some things really disrupt this sometimes. Like her siblings on holiday from school. Usually after a few days she adjusts. Unexpected guests she isn't familiar with. climate change because of clothing issues. We start preparing her for more or less clothes weeks in advance one item at time to make it less stressful. The hardest is winter attire .
Handling Sensory Meltdowns. We watch for cues or trigger to try and prevent. At one time my daughter would have multiply meltdowns a day . She would run back and forth from the kitchen and living room crying in an extreme way. If we tried to comfort or help her it made it worse. She would lash out biting ,kicking,and screaming to us and herself. We had to let it run its course until she was able to calm herself. Sometimes I would feel so helpless that we couldn't help her I would cry. Which is the biggest mistake you can make but sometimes can't be avoided because it gets so overwhelming. Following the steps above has helped us the most. We only occasionally deal with them now more often if she isn't feeling well. I pickup on the earliest cue of her pacing back in forth . I get her a distraction to focus on like a favorite scene from a show she likes. Or giving her less stimulation if needed. In therapy they use a fiber optic light in the dark that changes colors.
Sensory seeking behaviors. I've seen it posted hundreds of times in support groups and dealt with it. Playing with poop and smearing it everywhere. Getting into stuff and making a huge mess. like spilling liquid. Dumping full boxes of cereal out or a whole bag of flour. even though they have gotten in trouble many times for these things. This is a sign of needing that type of sensory input. Provide a type of sensory play related to the behavior. Playing in mud, finger painting, sand and sensory boxes.
The less talked about sensory issue. Child touching privates way to much. I took my daughter to the doctor probably 5 times thinking she had a uti because of how much she was touching herself before her OT finally told me it was part of her sensory issues. The only solution is redirecting the behavior and explaining about only doing this in private.
My daughters development pediatrician told me at her diagnosis that sensory processing disorder will no longer be given as a stand alone diagnosis. It is being incorporated under autism and added to the dsm 5 just like Asperger. In the course of my research I haven't been able to prove or disprove this. She received her diagnosis on April 14 2018.