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