Sensory Processing Disorder, also known as SPD, is a condition in which the brain struggles to properly respond to information taken in by the senses. Often, this results in people with the disorder being overly sensitive to things in their environment. Normal sounds and textures can be painful or overwhelming to those with SPD. For example, merely touching a shirt or a piece of velvet can trigger this pain. As a result, people with SPD may be uncoordinated, hard to converse with, or even unable to tell where their limbs are in space.
Typically, sensory processing issues are identified in children, although adults can have them as well. Sensory Processing Disorder is frequently seen in children who have other conditions like autism spectrum disorder. Much like autism spectrum, the symptoms of this disorder exist on a spectrum. However, unlike autism, it is possible for the child to outgrow this disorder. Let’s examine the different possible cases for someone with SPD.
In the less severe cases, a child may just have an immature sensory system. Thus, he or she will be able to outgrow it as they develop and their sensory system matures. However, sometimes the disorder is permanent, and the child must learn to develop coping strategies. Such strategies can include social withdrawal, or other, healthier things like swimming to reduce this stress.
Unfortunately, Sensory Processing Disorder is not being fully researched and recognized by the health care community. Many feel that there is no real hardcore evidence of this disorder. Thus, without concrete evidence it can be difficult to study and quantify the symptoms and causes of SPD. However, there have been some studies done, that found similarities between ADHD and SPD. A child with SPD often faces similar symptoms as one with AHDD — restless, easily distracted, impulsive, forgetful, and more. However, symptoms like a desire to swing or spin and a fear of walking on grass are unique to SPD.
Although SPD share similarities with ADHD, the traditional ADHD medications do not work on those with SPD. Rather, a child with SPD needs to work with an occupational therapist to reduce or remove their symptoms. Treatment ranges from swinging on a trapeze to touching Play Doh, all activities that stimulate the senses. After around a month of such treatment, most children will start to feel more comfortable and even physically stronger. For some, this treatment needs to last for years in order to show progress. Overall, it is possible to remedy or outgrow SPD, although it is a case by case situation.