In this guide to children with Sensory Processing Disorder, we’ll cover the following:
- What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
- What are the signs of SPD?
- Can a child overcome SPD?
- What can you do for a child with SPD?
- How to effectively treat SPD?
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition that affects how someone’s brain processes sensory information and stimuli. Kids with sensory processing issues may deal with a sensory overload of one or multiple senses, including:
SPD is not confined to one sense or stimulus and affects each person uniquely. Someone with SPD is typically oversensitive to stimuli others are not, but each case will vary. This makes it difficult to recognize early, as some symptoms of SPD may go largely unnoticed or be attributed to other issues. Thus, understanding the signs of SPD can go a long way to helping our loved ones, both children and adults, treat it adequately.
What are the Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder?
Many signs and symptoms of sensory processing disorder can be mistaken for short-term deficiencies or discomforts. However, identifying these symptoms is the first step to getting a proper diagnosis.
The signs of SPD include:
- Hypersensitive Hearing: If your child finds everyday sounds at normal volumes intolerable, this is a sign of hypersensitive hearing.
- Hyper-Acute Hearing: The ability to hear even the faintest sounds can plague children with auditory stimuli issues due to SPD.
- Poor Motor Coordination: A child with SPD may be awkward and clumsy and lack fine motor skills that help with eating, writing, and other activities.
- Lack of Spatial Awareness: Not only will this contribute to a child having trouble navigating specific spaces, but they run the risk of stepping over the personal boundaries of others.
- High Pain Tolerance: If your child is indifferent to pain when they hurt themselves, it can be an acute symptom of recognizing sensory processing disorder.
- Learning Difficulties: Children with SPD may struggle to master activities or learn at the same pace as their peers.
- Impaired Language Development: Conversations, instructions, and questions may be difficult for someone with SPD to process quickly.
- Aversion to Touch: If your child rejects any form of physical contact or acts fearful and surprised by hugs or handshakes, it can be a sign of SPD.
- Poor Balance: Games, sports, or even walking and running can be challenging for a child with a sensory processing disorder until it is adequately treated.
- Disliking Food or Clothing Textures: Often, a child with sensory processing disorder will reject food or clothing because it’s disturbing for them to smell, taste, or touch.
These are just some of the many signs a child with sensory processing disorder might exhibit. Even more challenging, it is very common for autistic children to have sensory hypersensitivity as a symptom of ASD. This causes a confluence of signs and symptoms at times, which is why we recommend a professional assessment as soon as possible if you think your child may be suffering from SPD.
Can a Child Overcome Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory processing disorder is a condition that exists on a spectrum, much like autism. However, unlike ASD, children can outgrow SPD. More realistically, like ASD, it is possible to manage the effects of sensory processing disorder to a level manageable throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Because sensory processing disorder is frequently seen in children with other conditions, such as ASD, it also allows for structured treatments and frameworks that can include mutually beneficial programs.
What Can You Do for a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder?
Helping a child with SPD can be tricky until there is a proper diagnosis and you get them the appropriate care to address their unique issues. This means if you suspect your child or loved one has a sensory processing disorder, you should:
- Be patient during confusing behavioral outputs.
- Document your child’s behaviors or responses that may be related to SPD.
- Talk with your child about the symptoms they may be exhibiting.
- Get a consultation with a medical professional as soon as possible.
- Pursue structured treatment for sensory processing disorder.
Once your child receives proper treatment, a licensed clinician or specialist will give you an individual framework to best help your child.
How to Effectively Treat Sensory Processing Disorder
The treatment plans prescribed will be based on your child’s unique needs, but they often include the following:
- Physical therapy
- Sensory integration therapy and classes
- Speech and language therapy
- Feeding therapy
- Vision therapy or motor skills gyms
- Floor play or play therapy
The essential element of treating SPD in your autistic child is communication with therapists, clinicians, educators, and support group members. A well-defined plan that everyone can contribute to will go a long way toward helping your child manage and potentially overcome sensory processing disorder in the long term.