Many parents are becoming more aware of the prevalence of sensory processing disorders. So if your kid is extremely upset by slight environmental changes, such as the noise of silverware being placed in a drawer, then you may wonder if it’s an appropriate time to check in with the physician. After all, spotting the early signs of sensory processing disorder can help your kid get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.
According to WebMD, a sensory processing disorder is a condition that makes it difficult for a person’s brain to receive sensory information. In some cases, people are overly sensitive to stimuli, so much so that minor background noise feels deafening. On the other hand, some people are under-sensitive to sensory stimuli, making it tricky to, say, accurately gauge the temperature outside and dress appropriately.
If you’re a struggling sensory parent, this next post should probably be memorized. Everything in it is SO foundational to seeing dramatic improvement in your child’s life and bringing a bit of sanity back to your life. This amazing article has been written by my fellow sensory parent, Wendy Bertagnole. She has a great blog about SPD and real life. When she offered to write a guest post for me, I leapt at the chance to share her wisdom with ya’ll.
I can picture the exact look.
It’s that look that is the beginning of a sensory meltdown. The meltdown that consists of mammoth sized screaming, kicking, crying, and yelling horrible things for as long as his little body can possibly handle it. Sometimes 30 minutes, other times longer.
That entire explosion starts with that look.
The look that signals the beginning of the end.
That look that makes my heart sink every time, just knowing what we were in for.
That look that makes all my mommy radars go off and wish the world would stop turning so I could devote my full attention to bracing myself for the meltdown of epic proportions.
At the start of every school year, I can literally feel my stomach move slowly from the depths of my belly to my chest and up into my throat.
I can’t help but think of every possible scenario as my sensory kiddo heads into a new school year with a new teacher and new friends.
How many days will it be before the principal calls me?
What will be the first thing he does that gets him in trouble?
Will this teacher understand him, or label him as the “bad kid” like all the ones before? What if he has a meltdown in the middle of class?
What will his friends think?
How will he handle it?
Will it completely crush his spirit?
The beginning of the year is such a busy time for us parents, our kids, and our schedules. But I know its even busier for the teacher. Sometimes they have up to 30 kids that they have to get to know and understand in such a short amount of time. I wish I could sit down for hours talking to my kid’s new teacher about him and how to help him be successful.
Three reasons why anxiety is almost always a factor, especially for those who over-register and demonstrate sensory sensitivities and sensory defensiveness:
The brain switches to the sympathetic nervous system at a greater frequency than a neurotypical brain for NO EXPLAINED reason, so therefore the brain will naturally feel “anxious” when it switches to fight or flight all of the time. And the cumulative result of this releases more and more of the stress hormones throughout the body.
Is there a link between Sensory Processing Disorder and Anxiety?
Does your child have Sensory Processing Disorder and anxiety? Have you ever wondered why?
My initial therapy sessions with parents often start out the same. I can almost guess what parents are going to say before they say it.
“He’s just so sensitive.”
“He’s always been a cautious kid.”
“Everything bothers him, even his clothes.”
“We have to lie down with her at night.”
“She is such a picky eater. Always has been.”
“She is terrified something bad is going to happen.”
I start to ask the usual questions.
Does he refuse to wear jeans?
Does she hate socks?
“Yes! Yes! How did you know?”
I know because I have had this conversation a thousand times before. I know because they are describing a sensitive child. A child who is sensitive to the core, both inside and out.
Time and time again parents come to therapy for anxiety and walk in with a child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Anxious kids are sensitive kids inside and out. It is not surprising then that a good portion of those anxious kids have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) as well. Sensory Processing Disorder and Anxiety go hand in hand.
SPD is often missed. Anxiety is not. That is why I am often the initial introduction to the letters SPD and not an Occupational Therapist.
Children with sensory processing disorder continue to grow up and age into teenagers and adults. Do you wonder what happens to kids with sensory processing disorder as they age into teenagers? Like we know, all children are different and unique, but some of these children may still have difficulty with sensory processing as they become teenagers.
Over the last 11 years of raising a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, I have come to learn what it really means to hold my tongue. Countless family gatherings, numerous phone calls with my concerned parents, and sideways glances from extended family… all have built up inside me over the years. It is quite clear that my family not only loves me, but they love my son as well.
The problem is that since they don’t live it and breathe it every day of their life, they just don’t know what to say and how to respond in a helpful way. So many times, the words were at the tip of my tongue but out of fear of being disowned, I remained silent. Today, I’ve joined thousands of other parents, to gather our strength and share what we secretly wish we could tell our families about raising a child with SPD (sensory processing disorder).
Really, thank you from the bottom of my heart and from the hearts of thousands of moms and dads that have wanted you to hear these words but didn’t know how to tell you. Some of these things might not be easy for you to hear and believe me when I tell you, that for us, they aren’t easy to say. However,by getting this far, it tells me that you are either A) a parent that wishes they had the words to say to their family or B) a family member that wants to be supportive and helpful. Either way, you care. You want to help, you want to show support. For that we thank you. Because, the truth is, we need you!
When it comes to Sensory Processing Disorder, I’ve spent more time being bitter and angry with it than being grateful. The reality is, why would I want to be thankful for Sensory Processing Disorder, it takes a lot of joy from my daughter and from our life as a family. But here we are…living with it daily.
I sincerely believe that if we look hard enough we can find the good in everything and we can choose to be grateful. So, we take the good with the bad. I challenged myself this year to take the things I am least thankful for and choose gratefulness.