Ever heard of kids who can’t bear to “feel too much”? Such a child usually overreacts ― although some under-respond ― when he hears, sees or feels certain sensory triggers. Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD happens when a person receives signals to his senses but the nervous system does not interpret them normally.
According to occupational therapist Jaclyn Tan of Ozworks Therapy, who works with children with SPD, the cause of this condition is unknown. However, it has been linked to unusual or high stress levels before or during pregnancy, or if the child was severely deprived of sensory input during the early formative years. It’s also not uncommon if his family has a history of SPD.
Children with SPD frequently display temper tantrums over seemingly trivial matters. While Tan says that her centre is seeing more cases in recent years, many still go undetected. The following are signs that your child might have SPD.
SPD happens when a person receives signals to his senses but the nervous system does not interpret them normally.
Tactile processing problems Unlike other children, your child fears going barefoot on surfaces like sand or grass. He might get worked up when his clothes are wet, or even take issue with things like the seams of his socks, the texture of new clothes, and clothes labels. It’s trying to get him to cut his hair or nails.
Oral processing problems Your little one tends to be picky with food. He may avoid certain textures, for instance, crunchy or mushy food, or even refuse solids. Other signs include refusing to suck on straws, brushing his teeth, or constantly needing to have an object in his mouth.
Visual processing problems If your child lacks eye contact or can’t focus or look at an object for a long time, he may have a visual processing disorder. He can get irritated when a room is too bright, or too dim. If he can read, he might skip certain words or even entire lines.
Auditory processing problems You can’t use the vacuum cleaner or even the hair dryer while junior is at home because he goes berserk at their sound. He might get distracted by common sounds like the ceiling fan or the aircon humming, and he might scream or even shout when he’s indoors.
Proprioceptive processing problems Your tot might have had delayed milestones such as crawling and walking. Unlike his peers, he avoids jumping and climbing around. Otherwise, he might appear hyperactive, press too hard (or too lightly) on paper when writing, or tend to act forcefully, such as in pushing others or throwing objects.
You child’s treatment can involve Sensory Integrative Therapy, which uses repetitive exercises to help him experience touch and other sensations more accurately.
Vestibular processing problems Junior will shy away from swings when he’s at the playground. He avoids stepping on uneven ground and may often complain of motion sickness. Otherwise, he may repeatedly spin himself around.
You child’s treatment can involve Sensory Integrative Therapy, which uses repetitive exercises to help him experience touch and other sensations more accurately. An occupational therapist usually conducts the therapy sessions, which may involve playing with clay, or bouncing on special equipment.
Counselling can also help, Tan says. In some cases, medication may be given to control mood swings and improve the child’s attention. The treatment period can be between three and 12 months, or even longer, as it depends on the severity of the condition.
To find out if your little one has signs of SPD, take a look at the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation’s by-age symptoms checklist. If you suspect your child has SPD, consult a trained occupational therapist, who will assess your child through a sensory questionnaire, as well as through clinical observations.
In case you missed these stories…