Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, relates to how our brain processes information from the senses. Children with Sensory Processing Disorder don’t have a sight or hearing impairment, the input from the senses is generally the same as ours. Rather, it is all down to how the brain interprets the signals that it is receiving. The brain has difficulties receiving and reacting to this information. This can cause loud noises or bright lights to be overwhelming, certain food textures to trigger a gag reflex, and bright lights to cause feelings of anxiety. This occurs when a child is oversensitive or hypersensitive to their environment. They can, however, also be undersensitive or hyposensitive, and not respond to being too hot or cold, or always crave touch and movement.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of SPD are various, and every child is different. With oversensitivity, meltdowns and tantrums can be common, as they’re brain is being overloaded with messages. A child can be oversensitive in some ways and undersensitive in others at the same time. All of this can have a big impact on the day-to-day life of a child, and many parents can struggle to manage.
If your child is oversensitive:
- They don’t like to be touched
- They are a picky eater
- They don’t like tags on their clothes
- They get overstimulated and have meltdowns
- They have poor balance
- They are afraid of large crowds
If your child is undersensitive:
- They enjoy bear hugs
- They cling to the people they trust most
- They don’t understand personal space
- They fidget and are unable to keep still
- They have a high tolerance to pain
- They don’t notice if they are too hot or cold
The link to ADHD
Many children who have ADHD or who are on the autism spectrum suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder, and it is only in recent years that this has been seen as a disorder in and of itself and not a symptom of ADHD. Yet there are people who suffer from SPD without having ADHD as well – having a child with ADHD just means that it is more likely that they will also suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder alongside this.
What ways can you help your child
There are multiple ways in which SPD can be treated and it all depends on each individual child. Finding a way to communicate effectively is one of the most important things. Whether it is verbal or non-verbal communication, having a way for your child to express their feelings, and tell you what is wrong, is the first step to them leading a happier life.
Learn their triggers
If your child is prone to meltdowns or tantrums, learn what it is that triggers them. For a time, these triggers will probably need to be avoided as much as possible, as you build up to introducing them, or introduce them in a different way. For picky eaters, hiding vegetables in food that they like might be a solution. Even something as simple as having a plate that separates the food items so that they don’t touch can help children that are sensitive to the mixture of textures and tastes.
If you are going somewhere or something is happening that you know might cause potential triggers for your child, tell them well in advance. Just like adults like to know what’s happening so that they can prepare themselves, so do children. Letting them know that there may be crowds and loud noises, and talking to them about it, while discussing ways that they can cope can be a big help. Your child may want to wear noise cancelling ear-phones or bring a fidget spinner for comfort.
Therapy that is designed for children with SPD can really help your child to develop working coping mechanisms, as well as getting them more used to certain things that trigger them, in a relaxed atmosphere. At the ADHD Wellness Center, we understand that an ADHD diagnosis can not only be confusing, but frustrating as well. If your child has Sensory Processing Disorder, we make sure that this is incorporated into our treatment plan, and tailor it according to the needs of each individual child.