Are you aware of kids with Sensory Processing Disorders?

October is Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness month so I wanted to make people more aware.

From Chicago Parent:

“Sensory Processing Disorder is really confusing to explain, but here is how I do it: Brains have roadway systems that allow cars to get to point A to B without getting lost. Some roadway systems are not yet complete so cars will come to a screeching halt or will go Dukes of Hazzard and jump onto another road. Sometimes it causes traffic jams. This is when we see children (and adults) who cannot process what is going on in their environment. For example, while many of us can tune out the sound of a blender, my son couldn’t. Therefore the only way for him to “tune it out” was to cover his ears.”

“Now that I have kids with SPD, I can spot others with it. These kids are the ones who are constantly touching other kids (or their parents) to the point of annoyance or hugging on others, not understanding personal space. In order for them to understand their space, they have to “feel it out” literally. Some kids hate tags on their clothes and seams on their socks. This is my daughter. It drives her (and me) batty. So we cut the tags and turn the socks inside out. Many have a hard time sitting still and focusing in school. Some will chew their clothes, pens, pencils or hair to get oral feedback.”

“Some kids are fearful in big crowds and they are the ones crying and clinging to mom and dad. Or they go wild with excitement and you literally have to drag them out by their feet. These kids are labeled as hyperactive or mislabeled as ADHD, but those two can go hand-in-hand. These “sensory-seeking” kids are doing just that, seeking something that feels good. These kids make excellent athletes and need activities like gymnastics, dancing, football and wrestling to expend their energy. Don’t be surprised if they are skydiving or doing high-risk activities when they are older. Professionals call them “risk-takers,” which can serve them well later in life (or not).”

I know several kids with SPD. I went to a lecture to learn more about sensory processing a few years back and it was fascinating. The parents had a chance to ask questions and it was incredible all the different ways this can present itself in kids. Multiple parents said their kids could NOT use public restrooms because of the automatic flush on the toilets. Other parents talked about brushing hair being problematic, certain food textures, crowds like at Disneyland or even groups like assemblies at school or church being overwhelming to their kids.

Like the lady in the article says, once you’re aware of these kids, you see them all over the place.

I noticed one little fellow at our church always trying to leave the big groups at Vacation Bible School, and I finally put together it was a sensory thing.

You might notice kids swinging really high and hard on the playground. These kids are often seeking vestibular stimulation. Also you might notice high climbers. Often they are seeking stimulation too.

You might notice kids covering their ears when they get upset. Often, it’s not that they are trying to ignore the parent. They are literally overwhelmed and trying to block the stimuli.

This website had a great list of things to help manage sensory overloads.

“2. Manage Sensory Exposure
If your child has sensory problems, it is critical to stay ahead of known triggers to minimize meltdowns. For kids with hypersensitivity to noise, try giving them a quiet place at home they can go to when they feel overwhelmed and need a break. For older kids, it may help to give them a watch or timer so they know exactly what time a bothersome activity or environment will end. If your child has extreme sensitivity to certain types of clothing, go through his wardrobe together to determine which pieces are tolerable and which ones aren’t. Be an advocate for your child by explaining to others what sensory problems are and how they can help minimize your child’s distress. If possible, create small kits for dealing with sensory problems on the go so you’re always prepared. Kits should include ear plugs for noise, sensory fidgets to keep hands busy, and sticky notes to cover sensors on automatic toilets and hand driers. You may also want to include some headphones and a music player with their favorite music or a book for older kids. Staying ahead of your child’s sensory sensitivities by being prepared can go a long way in minimizing distress.”

I saw a meme last year about how Halloween can be really tough for kids with sensory issues. Here are some recommendations for those types of kids. Here is a second list for kids with other special needs.

Occupational therapists can help tremendously with these issues and can help you evaluate when it’s really a sensory issue or when they just don’t like something.

Have your kids been diagnosed with sensory issues? Do you notice kids at school or on the playground with sensory issues?

33 comments Add your comment


October 27th, 2013
8:50 pm

My son hasn’t ever been officially diagnosed, but he definitely has some symptoms of SPD. We still can’t go to fireworks because of how much he hates them. (No Stone Mountain Laser Show for us. Ever.) When it gets to chaotic, he can lose it pretty easily. He’s 10 now, so we’ve learned how to manage some of his issues. When we’re in a place that I know could cause sensory overload, I make sure he knows where he can go to quickly decompress. He’s also become more aware of when he’s starting to overload, and he’ll voluntarily remove himself and find a quiet place.

There have definitely been times when it’s caused problems with family members that don’t understand, but in the decade I’ve been his mom, I’ve developed some pretty tough skin. I have to do what’s best for my child, not what his grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. think I should.

Mother of 2

October 27th, 2013
9:29 pm

My older child has sensory issues. He went to a sensory integration camp when he was in elementary school, which helped tremendously. An occupational therapist ran the camp. He’s older now and is able to stay away from large crowds and loud noises.

He is a quite person who needs a lot of down time. Once he got older, he had much more control over his environment.


October 28th, 2013
6:11 am

Anoter reason 2 hate Obamacare. He is turnin R kids in 2 week litle loosers.


October 28th, 2013
6:32 am

What a crock.


October 28th, 2013
7:02 am

Yes, I work with quite a few so diagnosed, and know of quite a few others at my school. The range in ability from dull to bright, and can have a host of other problems. And many of their sensory problems are a GREAT DEAL MORE PROBLEMATIC THAN THE “inconveniences” cited.

I have a comment

October 28th, 2013
7:06 am

another copy paste and post article. when are you going to write something yourself?


October 28th, 2013
7:25 am

I wonder if these are similar to what I would define as “pet peeves”? I’m glad our kids are grown so I can realistically cease to have need to be concerned. And, for those who feel this to be legit, what will the steps be to “protect” them once they become adults?


October 28th, 2013
7:42 am

I am pretty skeptical. Being annoyed at tags?? Doesn’t everyone hate tags? I always cut mine off and the ones in my kids’ clothes. Why does that have to have a name and a disorder?

Not handling crowds and excitement very well? I thought that was called being a kid.


October 28th, 2013
8:07 am

I think I have a BS processing disorder.

Roni Shortcakes

October 28th, 2013
8:20 am

Yeah, when I was a kid I couldn’t stand the seams on socks and clothing tags either. My parents told me to get over it. And so I did. It blows my mind how coddled and petted kids are these days. The only reason this exists is because indulgent parents allow it.


October 28th, 2013
8:37 am

Yes, this is real, although when my 16 year old was diagnosed with it, it was called SID – Sensory Integration Disorder. Hers was a result of her long hospitalization and ventilation when she was born, and we took her therapy for it (along with the many other physical issues she had). A few of her symptoms manifested when she was still an infant (refused to allow her feet to touch many surfaces such as grass and sand, for one), others when she got off her feeding tube at 4 (many food textures were completely intolerable), and yet others when she got into school (she couldn’t sense the feedback from paper through pencil and broke many pencil points from pressing down hard enough to feel that she was touching the paper).

Therapy with someone who was specially trained to work with SI kids worked wonders, desensitizing her to a lot of it, teaching her how to manage the most of the rest of it. You couldn’t tell now that she had all of these sensitivities unless you are aware of her history and pay close attention. She will avoid certain foods because of the texture (bananas still make her gag, although she loves the flavor in other things), and sometimes I notice her touch something, draw back, then touch it again more deliberately.

I’m sorry if some of you don’t think this is real or is the result of coddling, and I doubt that my anecdotal evidence (and that of others with similar experiences) will sway you. However, I would ask that you not be dismissive of something new just because you have never heard of it.


October 28th, 2013
9:38 am

@xxx – haha. It seems like fireworks are too loud – obviously. Crowds are too big – yes. Is it SPD or just logical? We like some noise, but not too much. We don’t like crowds – who does? Is this something that is made up just so we can label everyone who doesn’t like noise, crowds, etc.?


October 28th, 2013
9:49 am

Manage Sensory Exposure?

If the SPD is not part of a more severe disorder such as Autism, it’s best to teach the child how to defeat their perception of the external stimuli.

A friend of mine was convinced her three y.o. had an SPD because he would cover his ears and run from anything with a motor. Getting him into her car was a nightmare. My solution was to have him wear ear protection until he realized that the object making the noise was not a threat to his safety. After two exposures, he no longer runs nor covers his ears.

The world AND life are full of sounds and discomfort. A typical child should be taught to confront them head on, ear protection off.


October 28th, 2013
9:50 am

I am sure some children really do have problems but this looks like just another excuse for children to misbehave.


October 28th, 2013
9:53 am

Another thing!

Parents…mothers, especially, are finding it trendy to have a child with special needs. They do their children and parents of truly disabled children no favors by feeding their personal needs.


October 28th, 2013
9:55 am

I believe my son had some of these characteristics. At what point do a group of characteristics constitute a disorder? I have a Masters degree in psychology and once had a professor define psychology as “common sense with terms”. That seemed so right to me because everything I learned just seemed like people being people. People having different characteristics, likes, dislikes etc.. My son would hold his hands over his ears until he was 5 yrs old any time we would walk past balloons. He could never enjoy fireworks or airplane shows. Eventually he got past it and he is just as “normal” as any other 13 yr old. I actually wondered if he fell on the Autism spectrum at some points because he had many characteristics of high functioning autism. Later he showed many characteristics of ADHD. Then again, who doesn’t? I’m glad that these “labels” help people figure out how to best deal with children who have certain difficulties but I worry about crippling them with the labels. We never totally avoided the loud noises that made my son nervous but we didn’t force him to be around them either. At Disney when we encountered the fireworks we just validated that he was bothered by it and assured him it would be over soon. At air shows we bought him ear plugs so he could enjoy the show. I don’t know if it is common for kids to outgrow sensory disorders but If mine had a disorder it is gone now. He still has a low tolerance for crowds, lines etc.. but so do his parents so, disorder or just personality?


October 28th, 2013
10:57 am

I am aware of that the condition exists. I feel it is up to the parents to handle how help them it and find coping as they grow older. A 30+ year old running around with hands over their ears is not common, so I am guessing they do find coping skills.


October 28th, 2013
11:34 am

…be careful how you use these labels…


October 28th, 2013
12:34 pm

In my opinion, I think it is a spectrum and everyone is on it.


October 28th, 2013
4:19 pm

We label everything!!! I know kids that act this way and my own son has had some issues, but must we really give everyone a reason for their behavior? Doesn’t matter what you call it everyone has to learn how to deal with certain things in life.

Who let the dogs in

October 28th, 2013
6:48 pm

I have SPD. I am nervous about men in vans.

dekalb parent

October 29th, 2013
8:11 am

The reason you want to diagnose children with issues like this is so they can have a more productive and happy childhood. Kids learn better if they are not overwhelmed by noise and other sensory issues. Sure most learn coping mechanisms by adulthood but occupational therapy can expedite the process and help the kids to learn more easily. Why would anyone be opposed to a therapy that will improve educational outcomes and make a child happier?


October 29th, 2013
9:43 am

@ dekalb parent who pays for the therapy? Unless the answer is the parent, charitable organization or something other than State/Federal Taxes I can see many reasons somoen would be “opposed to a therapy that will improve educational outcomes and make a child happier”

dekalb parent

October 29th, 2013
10:16 am

Most of it can be done in the classroom or by the parents at home. It is also covered by insurance. Large gains can be maid in a short period of time for some kids. Just like it makes sense to pay for education because it is a public good it also makes sense to pay for therapies that are effective in allowing students to get the most out of school. Rather pay for therapy than welfare. But I guess you feel that only kids without learning disabilities should get a proper education. Not very caring are you


October 29th, 2013
1:00 pm

@ Dekalb parent I am against taxing people for public schools. I am against public schools. I believe that parents who pay for private school should be exempt from the current taxes as well as senior citizens. In fact I think the whole thing should be privatized and a parent can write off part of the money used to educate their child as an expense. THEN maybe the people of this country would finally fix the __________ education system instead of letting the kids “float” through.

YES mine do go to public school. By the time I pay my taxes and all I have no money for private education on single parent income. I don’t ask for a handout but I still hate the current system and think it is just wrong.


October 29th, 2013
1:01 pm

OH I also blieve that proof of citizenship should be a requirement if you want a PUBLIC SCHOOL education in the current system. No citizenship, no PUBLIC school.


October 29th, 2013
1:03 pm

Insurance…meh, we got pleanty of folks going to be paying for that (thorugh the AHA) under the current tax laws. Don’t think it is a tax? Supreme Court declared it a tax and IRS oversees it.


October 29th, 2013
5:04 pm

Yes, I am aware. I do not not know a lot about it and try to listen the the Speech and Occupational Therapists, when I can.


October 30th, 2013
8:36 pm

Yes, it exists. My son had to deal with it, 20 years ago when no one had heard of it, not doctors, not psychologists and very few school personnel.

As a toddler and pre-schooler, he had always had odd triggers — a doorbell could send him screaming, he absolutely hated swings, walked very early, odd clothing aversions, stubborn beyond all reason for food preferences, delayed motor development, etc., etc. Kindergarten was difficult, but first grade was painful — no one could figure out why a kid who was in the top 2% on all the intelligence tests they could throw at him, a kid who was doing square roots in his head at 6, absolutely couldn’t figure out reading. The tell-tale mannerisms – the constant movement, the fidgeting, etc. were all there, causing a teacher to diagnose him as having ADD (no “H” at that time) and suggesting all sorts of dire possibilities. (For SD kids, it’s the brain trying to orient the body in space — it keeps sending out signals because the kinesthetic interpretations are inadequate, thus the fidgeting.) The pediatrician shrugged and said, “Well, let’s try him on Ritalin, and see if there’s any change.” Uh — no, you aren’t giving MY son psychotropic drugs on a whim, thank you very much. The psychologist suggested ADD and therapy. I knew, deep down, it wasn’t ADD — this was a kid who could spend HOURS on a Lego set, could work well within a soccer team (although clumsy), and had infinite patience with puzzles and educational computer games. When we visited the OT for a small-motor-skills consultation, the OT asked if anyone had talked to me about ADD. I sighed and admitted that yes, they had, but . . . She then told me “Well, I don’t think it is,” and filled me in about sensory defensiveness (an early term for some sensory processing disorders), and told me that if his problem was ADD, the OT regimen wouldn’t hurt or help. But if it WAS sensory defensiveness, we could expect to see a discernable change quickly. Why not? We started OT, at first 3 times a week, with daily sessions at home, then down to 2, then 1, then one every week. Within two months, the psychologist was congratulating herself on the success of the Ritalin (I may have forgotten to mention that we never started it . . . ), and when I told her about the OT, she was amazed and intrigued. A month later, he was reading — he picked up a Hardy Boys book and sat down one afternoon and went through three of them in one sitting. He went from barely reading BOB books to reading 4th/5th grade chapter books in 16 weeks. (Reading has a lot to do with control over small muscles, such as eye tracking over a page . . . who knew?)

So, for those of you who poo-poo the idea of sensory disorders — fine. I don’t really give a crap what you “believe”. Roll your eyes all you want to — all I know is that OT for sensory defensiveness turned my miserable 1st grader into a confident academic star who lettered in three varsity sports and excelled on his almost full scholarship to a national top 20 university in the Southeast. I am quite certain that a significant portion of the kids currently being treated for ADHD are really dealing with a sensory issues, but doctors and psychologists aren’t aware of the issue — doctors know medicine, pyschologists know emotional health and OT’s deal with physical therapy. The paths only cross tangentially. But I do know that his psychologist starting working with his OT to learn the signs, and to arrange for SD testing before delving into ADHD issues — so it’s moving in the right direction.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 30th, 2013
10:59 pm

Amen DB — totally believe it’s real and totally believe OT can make a huge difference. So glad you followed your gut and got your little guy help!!! How miserable for him if he hadn’t gotten that help!! Good mom instincts!!


October 30th, 2013
11:46 pm

It is a real disorder. Those who leave snide or hapless comments, are full of themselves and their opinions.

Research has just found break through imagery of the part of the brain which is affected in sensory processing disorders.

For those parents who have children with the disorder, it is frustrating. There are so many aspects that are affected, and so many different variations of what is effected that it can be difficult to explain to the average person. As they say, ” the out of sync” child.

I think the hardest part is seeing that your child is frequently ostracized, or can’t make close connections when they desperately want to. They just can’t figure out normal or peripheral social cues among their peers. Social cues are often extremely subtle, and not something that is easily taught.


October 31st, 2013
12:05 am

@ FCM and Tea Party, this is an article about a disorder. I think somehow you must have confused this as an invitation to discuss your anti tax / anti government rhetoric. If your writing to complain about your hatred towards everyone else who doesn’t think like you, there are many forums that are perhaps more suited for your display of intolerance.

Nancy Peske

November 1st, 2013
3:42 pm

Sensory issues are becoming more common, and schools are getting better at detecting them and accommodating them. However, altering the underlying brain wiring so that a child begins to process sensory information more typically is important too! That’s why a sensory diet and occupational therapy using SI theory (sensory integration) theory are important–you do the therapy but you make lifestyle changes at home so it’s easy to have fun as a family and give your child the input needed to, over time, rewire the brain.