Sensory Processing Disorder: What Every Parent and Advocate Should Know
As parents and caregivers, we all want the best for our children. We want them to thrive and develop to their fullest potential. However, we may not always understand why our child isn't responding to certain stimuli in the way we expect them to. In some cases, a child may have sensory processing disorder ("SPD"). SPD can be tricky to identify, but it's important to understand this disorder and how to help your child if they have it.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
SPD occurs when an individual has difficulty processing information from their senses. This can include touch, sound, smell, taste, movement, and even temperature. Depending on the individual, SPD can manifest in different ways. Some people may be hypersensitive, which means they may react strongly to certain stimuli. Others may be hyposensitive, which means they may not react enough to certain stimuli. In some cases, individuals may have a mix of both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity.
What are the Signs of SPD?
Children with SPD may display a range of symptoms. They may have difficulty with coordination and balance, be easily overwhelmed by new environments, or have trouble with fine motor skills. Some children may become easily agitated, throw tantrums, or become anxious in social situations. Others may seek out sensory experiences, such as spinning or jumping. These are just a few examples of the many signs of SPD. If you suspect your child may have SPD, it's important to talk to their pediatrician or a qualified specialist.
How is SPD Diagnosed?
Diagnosing SPD can be challenging, as it is not yet recognized as an official medical diagnosis. However, there are many qualified professionals who can perform assessments to help determine if your child has SPD. Occupational therapists, developmental pediatricians, and other specialists may use questionnaires, interviews, and observation to assess your child's behavior and sensory responses.
How Can You Help a Child with SPD?
If your child has been diagnosed with SPD, there are many ways to help them cope and thrive. Occupational therapy is often recommended, as it can provide a range of activities to help improve sensory integration and coordination. Simple changes to your child's environment, such as using earplugs, providing fidget toys, or creating a calming space, can also make a big difference. It's important to work with your child's educators and caregivers to ensure that they have the support and accommodations they need to succeed.
Sensory processing disorder can be a challenging condition to understand, but with the right resources and support, children with SPD can successfully navigate their sensory world. As parents and advocates, it's important to be patient, understanding, and proactive when it comes to helping our children thrive. With early intervention and personalized treatment, children with SPD can reach their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.