About Sensory Issues and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

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Did you know that many behavior problems can be caused by sensory issues?

Are your child’s clothes always too itchy? Every food he tries is “yucky“? The florescent lights in your classroom are too bright? The joyful screams of friends playing at recess are too loud?

If your child or student is unable to cope with these everyday sensory stimuli, he may “act out” in a disruptive way…distracting his classmates or creating chaos at home. Meltdowns or tantrums may become an everyday event. Do these behaviors sound familiar? If so, your child or student may be experiencing Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD. Read on to find out how SPD can affect a child’s everyday life and what you can do to help.

The latest research by the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation indicates that 1 in every 6 children experiences sensory symptoms that may be significant enough to affect aspects of everyday life functions. Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder, like those of most disorders, occur within a broad spectrum of severity. While most of us have occasional difficulties processing sensory information, for children and adults with SPD, these difficulties are chronic, and they disrupt everyday life.

Sensory Processing Disorder can affect people in only one sense–for example, just touch or just sight or just movement–or in multiple senses. One person with SPD may over-respond to sensation and find clothing, physical contact, light, sound, food, or other sensory input to be unbearable. Another might under-respond and show little or no reaction to stimulation, even pain or extreme hot and cold. In children whose sensory processing of messages from the muscles and joints is impaired, posture and motor skills can be affected. These are the “floppy babies” who worry new parents and the kids who get called “klutz” and “spaz” on the playground. Still other children exhibit an appetite for sensation that is in perpetual overdrive. These kids often are misdiagnosed – and inappropriately medicated – for ADHD.

Sensory Processing Disorder is most commonly diagnosed in children, but people who reach adulthood without treatment also experience symptoms and continue to be affected by their inability to accurately and appropriately interpret sensory messages.

These “sensational adults” may have difficulty performing routines and activities involved in work, close relationships, and recreation. Because adults with SPD have struggled for most of their lives, they may also experience depression, underachievement, social isolation, and/or other secondary effects.