Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition that affects how your child processes sensory information, including the things they see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Kids with SPD will be overly sensitive to certain sensory information and, in some cases, not have much sensitivity at all. This can cause distress for your child and make it difficult to do specific actions.
In this blog, we will explore what sensory processing disorder is, the common symptoms, and what you can do to support your child.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
As kids develop, it is common for certain sounds and stimuli to overwhelm them from time to time, especially if they are experiencing them for the first time.
However, some kids may interpret sensory input differently than other kids, leading to overreacting, underreacting, or even seeking sensory experiences. If they are regularly struggling with specific sounds
Sensory processing challenges are much more common in children than in adults and are often present in kids on the autism spectrum and with developmental and sleep disorders.
Types of Symptoms Parents Need to Look Out For
Understanding the symptoms of SPD is helpful for early intervention. Plus, it can provide you with practical support. Here are some common signs to watch for.
1. Sensory Sensitivities – Children with SPD may be hypersensitive to sensory input, which means that they may become overwhelmed by everyday stimuli. For instance, they might be unable to tolerate certain clothing textures, cover their ears at the sound of a vacuum cleaner, or find crowded places distressing. On the other hand, they may also show hyposensitivity and seem unaware of sensory input that typically bothers others.
2. Emotional and Behavioral Responses – Children with SPD may have intense emotional reactions and behavioral responses to sensory stimuli. They may experience meltdowns or tantrums when exposed to certain sensations. These outbursts can make everyday activities such as getting dressed, playing, and meal times challenging for both the child and their parents.
3. Motor Skill Difficulties – Some children with SPD struggle with motor skills, such as handwriting, buttoning clothing, or riding a bike. They may also appear clumsier than their peers and struggle with coordination.
4. Unusual Sensory-Seeking Behaviors – Children with SPD may engage in sensory-seeking behaviors, such as spinning quickly, jumping, or climbing. On the other hand, they may fear going on playground equipment or find it challenging to climb stairs or curbs. These behaviors can help them self-regulate and manage their sensory experiences, but they may seem peculiar to others.
5. Challenges with Social Interaction – SPD can impact a child’s ability to interact with their peers. They might have difficulty reading social cues or responding appropriately in social situations. This can lead to problems making and maintaining friendships.
How Sensory Processing Disorder Impacts a Child’s Daily Life
Understanding how SPD affects a child’s daily life is essential for parents to provide appropriate support. Here are some ways in which SPD can have a significant impact.
1. Educational Challenges – Children with SPD often struggle in the classroom. They may find it challenging to concentrate when sensory distractions are present, which can impact their academic performance. Additionally, if they have issues with their motor skills, they can find tasks such as writing or using scissors more challenging.
2. Daily Routines – Daily routines, such as dressing, grooming, and meal time, can be significant sources of stress for children with SPD. They may resist wearing specific clothing, gag on or refuse to eat certain textures of food, or be overly sensitive to the sensation of water when bathing. These challenges can lead to daily battles and frustration for parents and children alike.
3. Social Interactions – Children with SPD may struggle with social interactions. They may not enjoy typical play activities, react poorly to sudden movements, or have trouble understanding and interpreting nonverbal cues. These difficulties can make it hard for them to develop and maintain friendships.
4. Emotional Well-Being – Living with SPD can be emotionally taxing for children. They may feel isolated or misunderstood, leading to frustration and low self-esteem. Identifying and addressing these emotional challenges is essential for their overall well-being.
Things Parents Can Do to Support Their Child
Parents play a critical role in helping their children with SPD navigate the world around them. Here are some strategies to consider.
1. Seek Professional Help – If you suspect that your child has SPD, it’s essential to seek a professional evaluation and diagnosis from a pediatrician or occupational therapist who specializes in sensory processing. A professional can help determine the severity of the condition and develop a personalized treatment plan.
2. Create a Sensory-Friendly Environment – Make adjustments at home to create a sensory-friendly environment. This might include providing sensory tools like fidget toys, noise-canceling headphones, or sensory-friendly clothing. Reducing sensory overload can help your child feel more comfortable.
3. Occupational Therapy – It is often a key component of SPD treatment. Occupational therapy can help your child build sensory tolerance and develop coping strategies. Consistent therapy sessions can make a significant difference in their daily life.
4. Support Communication – Encourage open communication with your child about their sensory challenges. Listen to their concerns and frustrations, and work together to find solutions. Creating a safe and understanding environment can significantly affect their emotional well-being.
5. Be Patient and Understanding – Living with SPD can be overwhelming for your child and may lead to them being unwilling to engage in school and social activities. Creating a safe space at home and supporting them when they are outside helps them navigate their sensory experiences. Celebrate their successes, no matter how small, and offer love and support through the challenges.
Sensory processing disorder is a complex condition that can cause children and parents great distress. If your child displays any signs of SPD, contact us today to book an appointment with a friendly, board-certified pediatrician.