What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory Processing Disorder (or SPD) is a neurological disorder that affects how sensory information is perceived by an individual, causing abnormal responses. Individuals with SPD tend to respond inappropriately and out-of-context to sensory information.
Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder
A few signs of Sensory Processing Disorder include:
● Touch aversion – sensitive to certain textures or feelings like tags on clothes or grass on their feet.
● Poor motor coordination – clumsy or unbalanced.
● Lack of boundaries – tend to touch everything around them and invade personal space.
● High pain tolerance – might not notice or react when feeling pain.
● Easily distracted – fidgety and unable to sit still or focus on one thing for too long.
● Impaired language/reading development.
● Difficulty learning new things.
Difference Between Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism
With SPD, the brain does not often understand how to react to stimuli, causing the child to over or under-react. Studies have shown that the minds of children with SPD have decreased function in areas of the brain responsible for sensory processing. In contrast, children with Autism function differently in the brain’s areas related to emotional development and memory. Children with SPD also process and react to touch and sound differently than children with Autism. The bottom line is: Children with SPD mostly have issues centered around sensory information (sounds, touch, etc.), and children with Autism, although they can have these issues as well, suffer more from emotional development. They are similar, but with SPD, the reactions are usually in response to sensory information. However, this can vary from case to case. It’s important to remember that not all children work the same way.
What Should You Do If You Work With A Child With Sensory Processing Disorder?
Are there ways around the temper tantrums and confusion? Yes! The good news is resources are abundant for activities and exercises to do with children with SPD. Because children with SPD struggle with focus, the best activities you can do with them either exercise the brain or body. Some of these can include:
● Sensory bins
● Obstacle courses
● Sensory swings
● Dance parties
● Games that stimulate physical activity
● Other grounding exercises
Additionally, if you are having difficulty getting your SPD child to focus in school or at home, the worst thing you can do is force them to stay stationary all day. Get them a yoga ball to bounce on, anything weighted (such as a weighted blanket), a swivel chair, or fidget toys. Remember that they have difficulty processing and reacting to sensory information. Therefore, they need to have patience and creativity from the people around them to ensure they are getting what they need.
If you are looking for more resources for children with SPD, Attitude Magazine has many activities and exercises with their benefits listed on their website.