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Does My Child Have a Sensory Processing Disorder?

Just like most children with autism, my son goes to multiple therapies including occupational therapy (OT). Occupational therapy is dedicated to fine motor skills mostly but they also deal with our senses, especially the senses that are overlooked: proprioception and the vestibular sense.

As I am sitting in therapy with my son the OT begins to explain to me that my son is "sensory seeking". I kindly asked, "What does that mean?". She explained that if a child is sensory seeking they are hyposensitive and looking for more input to their senses like touch. This of course got me thinking that once again I need to investigate all the different realms of autism to help my son. So here we go...

Sensory Processing Disorder aka SPD

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is defined as trouble processing the information someone receives from their senses. Of course, we are dealing with our normal 5 senses but there are 2 more which include proprioception and vestibular which I mentioned before.

Proprioception is our body awareness in space and vestibular is our movement. Within these two senses lies two different categories which include hyposensitive (craves input) and hypersensitive (avoids input and is easily overwhelmed).

Reactions to Sensory Processing Issues

When children suffer from SPD behaviors aren't always "socially acceptable" such as dramatic mood swings, tantrums, elopement, clumsiness, and self-inflicting pain. This is because these individuals are not able to deal with their senses well and they need other ways to combat those feelings.

However, it's not always negative-type behaviors and sometimes it can be difficult with concentration, lack of detail, inability to problem-solve or see things clearly, and struggle with academics due to their environment (ie: sensitivity to lights and sounds).

Therefore, sensory issues really can affect all areas of their lives.

Possible Ways Individuals with Autism Cope with Sensory Processing Issues

A lot of the time OT and PT's place a child on a "sensory diet" which are introducing them to new sensory stimulants but also using the stimulants they are craving to decrease the behaviors or issues that are deemed inappropriate in different settings (ie: school, work, offices, etc). This also provides children with new ways to adapt, keep them safe, and provide an outlet.

A "sensory diet" may incorporate jumping on a trampoline, swinging on a swing, weighted vests or blankets, a sensory tent, brain breaks, and then, of course, integrating those unwanted stimulants in a controlled environment.

My Experiences with SPD

My son does have sensory processing disorder and he is hyposensitive therefore he seeks input a ton! He loves big squeezes, jumping on a trampoline, deep pressure, and the pool, and he enjoys spinning, flapping, and being tossed. He does not love blankets or vests which most have found interesting. He also enjoys brushing his teeth with an electric toothbrush but cannot stand having water in his eyes or being dumped on his head.

We have two separate OT's. One session is for fine motor skills and the other is for sensory integration. When we first started Ellis would not touch slime, water beads, or velcro and now he loves all three (usually). Currently, we have issues with different foods and he hates anything with a "slimy" texture like a noodle. Most of his food has to be hard, crunchy, or liquid-based which we are working through.

I love the two separate OT settings. He knows that when he goes to OT outpatient he will be working with different materials and during in-home/school-based OT he will be writing, coloring, cutting, and eating. It works for him! Like I have always said, you need to do what works for your child.

This Will Take Time

I realize it's a process (no pun lol) but it's also quite intriguing to watch Ellis because he notices every small detail. He notices sounds that would bypass me in a second, he really feels the texture of an item that we would not give any recognition to, and he looks off into space as he listens to the world around him and really takes in the moment.

I feel like people who have sensory processing disorders look at the world like we all should. They see the beauty, the weird, and the unusual, and feel the presence of that thing or person and really digest it. We always say to stop and live in the present and these children (or even adults) really do. I envy that.




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