Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD Foundation Link) (also known as S.P.D, Sensory Integration Disorder) is most simply described as a traffic jam of the brain. When processing all our 7 (yes 7!) senses, the nervous system sends messages to the brain in order to process these senses and act accordingly. Sometimes we all experience a little overload or perhaps we can be fairly unresponsive but the child or adult with SPD will be affected by everyday tasks (teeth cleaning, hair brushing, socialising, play; both at home and school, eating, clothing and so much more) without help and a sensory diet, children and adults can be left with constant battles with daily activities that should not cause distress. After our first paediatric appointment we walked away feeling lighter, now I had a name I could research. The wait between now and an occupational therapy appointment is unknown but this is the best step to take when dealing with sensory processing problems.
SPD does not get cured. My son will not grow out of it and sadly though recognised, it is still not diagnosed as a stand alone disorder being commonly seen in children with autism, ADHD and many other learning and behavioural problems. Most health professionals and occupational therapists treat SPD in its own right but it still needs more research and recognition (I'd never heard of it until researching for my son) With a Sensory Diet, (Sensory Smarts Link) my son will learn to manage his difficulties, at least we most certainly hope so.
So how does S.P.D affect Little A?
Mostly he is hypersensitive and a sensory seeker. He is the child that head rocks, runs into walls and drawers, enjoys running around and being free to make lots of his own noise and play rough regardless of someone else maybe not wanting to. This is more common with his sister rather than another child, say from school.
Having his hair cut causes A much distress. Lots of children hate having their hair done, it can be a long and horrible process for loads of parents. For a child with SPD the noise, vibrations of clippers, snips of scissors, your touch upon their person can cause them pain. It is like every hair on Little A's head is attached to a nerve and by snipping away we are causing the most pain. It's been suggested we let his hair grow but every day brushing and eventually getting out any knots would be like a daily hair cut for him. That's no fun for anyone.
Teeth brushing is another one which many children protest and fight the parent on. There's again a lot of sensory input to deal with. We are currently unsure if he could be experiencing sensory distress or be like many other pre-school children who need pinning down!
The cold bothers A a lot. He will only wear long sleeves, hates shorts and trousers that don't cover his legs and always leaves the house in gloves and a hat even when not too chilly.
He becomes distressed when he cannot pinpoint exactly where a noise is coming from. He hates sudden loud noises and banging. At the other end though he is a seeker and therefore does not mind creating as much noise for himself as possible! Loud phones when watching movies, loud games and lots of shouting and screaming are A!
Difficulty with speech and language. He always needs something to do with his mouth. He chews his jumper, coats and sleeves even his gloves become soaked! He still has a dummy and over fills his mouth when eating.
He will only eat foods that require his jaw to work hard. He loves crunchy foods and avoids wet, lumpy, hot food and has a preference for cold food.
He loves squeezes and bear hugs from people he is familiar with. He's a pretty friendly boy but he isn't always keen on others touching him or pulling him in directions.
He's a fidget!
Poor sleep is a long term problem. Part sensory and part difficulties with his transition from deep to light sleep. Currently no nearer to solving our difficulties.
If A has a preference or his mind up there is no reasoning, no distracting and no negotiating. He has to wear his wellies most days, he may not want to wear a certain piece of clothing but you won't have a clue why! He may eat food one day and not the next, it's never predictable!
He's incredibly distracted when out and about making school runs, nursery runs and anything that should be quick doubly long and doubly frustrating!
Showers terrify him but baths are fine. Just stay away from his head! He also loves water play but you must not splash him or cover him with water; especially if it's cold!
There is so much more to A and more to sensory processing disorder. Do check out the link at the start of this post to read more because it's a lot more complex and I'm having a hard time explaining! I hope this gives people a little insight into our special little man. People that see us need to take this on board so we have a happy melt down free little boy!