Ask any SPD parent and they’ll tell you to always trust your gut. If your instincts are telling you that something is wrong, something is wrong.
Other parents may tell you that your child is just high maintenance or hyperactive. But you know that isn’t the case. There’s a deeper reason why your child doesn’t like certain fabrics. Or why they can’t candle certain smells and a change in routine sends them off the deep end. Your child isn’t sniffing everything because they want to. Nor are they trying to be funny by repeating everything.
It is okay to explore the possibility that your child may have a developmental issue. You are in no way betraying your child. In fact, you are being proactive and tending to their needs.
As you sit here reading this article, your brain is analyzing input from your environment. The neighbor’s dog may be barking. Or the kids are watching TV in the other room. You may feel a breeze from the ceiling fan, or the weight of your sweater on your body.
Your brain takes this sensory input and filters it by importance. However, for kids Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), this organization process is difficult.
Their brain does not have the ability to interpret and filter information from the body’s senses. Instead, their nervous system is overloaded with sensory information. In an attempt organize this information overload, SPD children display two types of behaviors (or even a mixture of both). Some children are constantly looking for sensory stimulation, while others avoid it.
SPD has a huge variety of symptoms. Let’s take a look at some major indicators that raise a red flag:
The realization that something may be wrong with your child can be very scary. You begin worrying about the stigma attached with special needs. Or that as a parent, maybe you did something wrong and that this diagnoses could have been prevented.
Everything is and will be okay. SPD is not a life-ending diagnoses, nor does it define your child’s life. To help you, we’ve put together a list of steps to take if you suspect your child has SPD. Let’s take a look.
Read anything you can about SPD. Read about how the nervous system works. About the body’s senses. Read other parent’s testimonials and how they deal with their child’s day-to-day challenges.
By educating yourself on SPD, you will begin to see the world through your child’s eyes. You will better understand why they react the way they do, putting you one step ahead of the game. You will start seeing patterns and understanding their triggers, giving you the opportunity to ease their symptoms.
Don’t deal with these problems alone. Do your research, speak with other parents, and join support groups.
Other parents can give you recommendations for respectable doctors and occupational therapists. They can also give some great tips on how to deal with sensory meltdowns, unsupportive onlookers, and how to approach your child’s teacher.
But best of all, SPD parents are supportive. They’ve all had those days filled with constant sensory meltdowns and little to no patience. There is something comforting in sharing your story with those who have been through the exact same experiences.
SPD usually comes hand-in-hand with other learning and behavioral disorders. Many children with SPD are also diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger’s, and autism. Your child may also exhibit both sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors. They may be hyper active one minute and then overwhelmed why the amount of stimulation the next.
Keep a journal of your child’s behavior for the next few weeks. Which textures, sounds, and situations trigger sensory meltdowns? What seems to calm your child?
This journal will help you explain your child’s situation to their pediatrician. It will also help you identify when a sensory meltdown is approaching and how to sooth it.
There is a growing awareness of SPD, but it is still does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This is guide used by doctors and therapists to diagnose learning, behavior and attention disorders. If your child’s doctor does not believe in SPD, find another doctor.
Bring your journal to your child’s pediatrician. Explain your child’s sensory behaviors and what triggers a meltdown. Your child’s pediatrician will then give you a referral to an occupational therapist (OT) for an initial evaluation.
An occupational therapist will first evaluate your child to understand their specific needs. Some children need alerting activities, while others need calming activities. There are those who need to improve coordination, and others need spatial awareness.
Your Child’s OT might use Deep Pressure Therapy through the use of a weighted blanket or lap pad. Or vestibular activities such as cartwheels or swinging on a sensory swing. These activities organize your child’s brain and help reduce unwanted sensory seeking behaviors.
Set up a meeting with your child’s teacher and school administrators. How is your child interacting with other students? Is he or she having meltdowns in class? Are there triggers at school that aren’t at home?
It is important to keep the lines of communication open between you and your child’s teacher. In this meeting, you can also discuss certain support and services that will benefit your child.
Some days are going to be hard. There are going to be tears, judgmental parents, and a lot of frustration. It is an endless struggle to avoid the next sensory meltdown.
But keep going. Your child is going to amaze you with their abilities and make you even prouder of the smallest accomplishments.
As an SPD parent, what is one thing you wish you knew at the beginning of this journey? Let’s give these new SPD parents some advice in the comments below!
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