Most of us take for granted the simpler things in life: the taste of food, the sound of music, the scent of a flower, or the sight of a beautiful sunset. For some people, even these common experiences can present a gargantuan computational problem for the mind. Sensory processing disorder (or SPD) is a condition that forces the subject to experience life with less structure than most of us are used to. Those who have this disorder have brains that can’t interpret sensory information.
This can mean a variety of things, and it all depends on the person who is diagnosed with the condition. While one person might simply be hypersensitive to a smell, a sound, or a number of visual stimuli, another might have difficulty with coordination while taking an ordinary stroll down the street. One might have trouble avoiding obstacles. Engaging in conversation can cause issues as well. Depth perception can be a great struggle for those with SPD. Imagine not knowing how far away the vehicles are when you’re trying to cross the street. These are the problems some people face every day.
For a parent, SPD can be a terrifying diagnosis. To others, the mere possibility is strange, since diagnosis isn’t always easy. After all, sometimes kids seemingly cause trouble for no reason at all. The reasons behind their actions are difficult to determine, and that’s why we might not immediately jump to conclusions if they aren’t in the mood for a cuddle or a kiss, or just don’t want to talk. Kids often trip over their own feet, so how are we to know if something really is wrong?
It’s important to look for signs of SPD as early as possible. When a child is an infant or toddler and continuously struggles when being clothed, this is an early warning sign. The child might routinely avoid affection or be unable to eat or sleep without a tantrum. When children get older, take note of any sensitivity to common actions. If your child can’t adapt to different situations, has a difficult time when trying to write, or just gets too easily distracted, then there might be a bigger problem.
SPD isn’t as rare as you might think, either. Researchers out of the University of California at San Francisco determined that anywhere from 5 to 16 percent of children experience a form of SPD while growing up. If you suspect your child has a hard time with common activities and is hypersensitive to sights or sounds, then you should find an occupational therapist who can assess the likelihood of SPD.
At first, the child will be given a series of interviews in order to determine typical behaviors and responses to certain stimuli. After that, treatment might be personally tailored depending on your child’s situation. Therapy for one child can be completely different for therapy for another, and this is a direct result of the many different forms that SPD can take. No matter what, it’s important to take these steps as early as possible in order to make life a little easier in the early years of school, and a lot easier down the road.