Monday, March 25, 2013

What is sensory processing disorder?

A month ago I had only heard these words but really had no idea what they meant. Then, I was told my son had it and I have been in learning mode ever since. It is really very interesting. It used to be called sensory integration dysfunction. This wasn't even thought about until the 1970s when an occupational therapist named Dr. A. Jean Ayres started learning the foundations that would eventually become known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). It is still a fairly recently established issue.

SPD is when a person doesn't process the sensory around them like others. Most people absorb all the senses going on, the hard chair under their rear, the hum of the light, the sound of the wind whistling through the chimney, the clicking of the computer from a neighbor... All these little pieces, these puzzle pieces come together to form a complete picture. Someone with SPD has trouble putting the pieces together and just see this overwhelming pile of puzzle pieces. One isn't more important than the other but all just there and difficult to focus on just one.

There are a couple of types of SPD. One is called a "sensory avoider" and the other is called a "sensory seeker". These two are just like they sound. The avoider doesn't like crowded areas or lots of noise or touch. The seeker wants the sensory stimulation. This child is constantly touching peers or moving or bouncing. My son is a seeker.

What are some common behavioral symptoms of these children?
Over sensitivity or under sensitivity to touch, sights, sounds, movement, tastes or smells
High distractibility, with problems paying attention and staying focused on a task
An unusually high or low activity level
Frequent tuning out or withdrawing
Intense, out of proportion reactions to challenging situations and unfamiliar environments
Impulsivity with little or no self control
Difficulty transitioning from activity to activity
Rigidity or inflexibility at times
Clumsiness and carelessness
Discomfort in group situations
Social or emotional difficulties
Developmental and learning delays and acting silly
Awkwardness and insecurity
Trouble handling frustration and difficult to return to calm state
Problems transitioning from active state to calm state

One of the brain's jobs is to regulate the level of nervous system arousal. Children with SPD are unable to do this consistently. So, here is a brief synopsis of SPD. Now you know. ;)
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