Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the brain has difficulty processing sensory information. SPD affects people of all ages, but it is most commonly diagnosed in children. According to multiple sources, SPD affects 1 and 20 children. Childs with SPD may experience sensory overload, sensory seeking, or sensory-avoiding behaviors. These behaviors can impact a person's ability to function in daily life, affect their behavior, and impact their relationships. Occupational therapy can be an effective treatment for SPD, and early intervention is crucial for successful outcomes.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a neurological condition in which the brain has difficulty processing and interpreting sensory information. This can result in a range of sensory experiences that are outside of the typical range. Children with SPD may have difficulty with sensory integration, which can impact their ability to function in daily life. Sensory processing disorder is also known as sensory integration dysfunction.
Signs and Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder
The signs and symptoms of sensory processing disorder can vary from person to person, but some common indicators include:
- Difficulty with certain textures, tastes, sounds, or smells
- Discomfort with certain types of clothing or fabrics
- Avoidance of certain activities or environments due to sensory discomfort
- Seeking out sensory input through activities like spinning, rocking, or jumping
- Difficulty with balance or coordination
- Overreacting or underreacting to sensory stimuli
- Emotional dysregulation or behavioral issues
Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism
Sensory processing disorder is often co-occurring with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In fact, research has shown that up to 80% of children with ASD also have sensory processing difficulties. Sensory processing difficulties can exacerbate the social, communication, and behavioral challenges associated with ASD.
Sensory Processing Disorder in Children
Sensory processing disorder is most commonly diagnosed in children. Early intervention is crucial for successful outcomes, as sensory processing difficulties can impact a child's ability to develop important skills such as communication, socialization, and academic achievement.
Coping Strategies for Sensory Processing Disorder
There are many strategies that can help children with sensory processing disorder cope with their symptoms. Here are some common coping strategies:
- Sensory diets: A sensory diet is a personalized plan of activities that provides the sensory input a child needs to feel regulated and comfortable. The plan may include activities that provide calming or alerting sensations, such as swinging, bouncing on a therapy ball, or playing with a weighted blanket.
- Environmental modifications: Making changes to the environment can help reduce sensory input and make it more comfortable for children with SPD. This can include using noise-canceling headphones, wearing comfortable clothing, or using a fidget toy. Some children may benefit from having a quiet space to retreat to when feeling overwhelmed.
- Self-regulation techniques: Learning self-regulation techniques can help children with SPD manage their emotional and behavioral responses to sensory input. This can include deep breathing exercises, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation. Some children may benefit from using visualization techniques or creating a sensory "safe place" in their mind.
- Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy can be an effective treatment for SPD. An occupational therapist can work with children to develop strategies to cope with sensory input, improve motor skills, and develop social skills. Occupational therapy can also provide a safe environment for children to explore and experiment with different sensory experiences.
It's important to remember that every child with SPD is unique, and what works for one child may not work for another. It may take some trial and error to find coping strategies that are effective for a child. With time, patience, and support, children with SPD can learn to manage their symptoms and lead happy, fulfilling lives.