Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) affects nearly 1 in 20 of us, even though most of us don’t know much about it. October represents SPD Awareness Month, so there is no better time to learn everything there is to know! This month, let’s try to end a few of the misconceptions related to these behavioral disorders and stem the flood of misinformation.
Did you know that while many kids living on the autism spectrum are also suffering from some form of SPD, autism itself isn’t actually SPD? Technically, SPD isn’t even a set of behavioral disorders. Actually, it’s a neurological condition that sometimes presents through those behavioral problems. The diagnosis of SPD remains complicated, in part because even doctors don’t know to routinely look for it when similar symptoms present.
The behavioral issues often associated with this neurological condition are a result of mostly environmental factors. A child will become stressed because they do not know how to respond to certain stimuli — like noise, tactile sensation, or temperature fluctuations — and so they can act out because they don’t have any other way of coping or relieving that stress.
SPD educators will gladly provide information related to the learning methods often required of kids with SPD. It’s not that they can’t learn — it’s that they learn differently from most other kids. Activities that include tactile sensation are important to kids growing up with SPD because they need to learn how to adapt to these new experiences.
Teachers can provide kids with classroom-like learning experiences by taking them outside and asking them to touch and describe certain objects they find in the local environment. These might include sticks, leaves, or trees. Science teachers can benefit kids by letting them touch biological objects like fur, skin, shells, etc.
Believe it or not, there are a number of ways to teach math and science using sensory functions like touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste! Including all of these functions as often as possible is an important way to help children learn and grow.
Do you know how to interact with kids who suffer from autism or forms of SPD?
Make sure the children are receiving enough individual attention. Educators must learn to spot the warning signs of a child’s stress. Baby steps are also an important way of helping kids work to a goal. When the stress becomes too much for someone to handle, it’s important that they have a designated safe space where they can go, no questions asked.
Last but not least, every child with SPD is different and has different needs. Educators and parents must work together to learn about a child’s learning style and help them become an important part of the community over time.