I have worked with the Sensory Processing Disorder population for 22 years. Although Sensory Processing has been proven to work since the 1970s, many people had still not heard about it in 2000. Now, Sensory Processing is a term used often in classrooms, by pediatricians, and by early childhood educators. Sensory Processing Disorders can easily be identified.
If your child presents with a negative behavior towards wearing certain clothes or fabrics, complaining they are too scratchy or are hurting them, that is a strong sign of a child who has a heightened sensitivity towards textures. These children might present as picky eaters and often don’t like to play with messy manipulatives.
Another clear sign that your child can have SPD is if they overreact towards loud unexpected noises or bright lights. Also, some SPD children will be very clumsy and display uncoordinated movements impacting their ability to partake in organized sports.
How To Get Help
Speaking to your child's pediatrician is the first step. Make sure you have a complete list of concerns that you can share with your pediatrician. If your child is 0-3 years of age they can qualify for Early Intervention which is state-funded. Get in touch with a Certified EI Agency that will coordinate your child's therapists with your schedule. Your child will have a comprehensive evaluation assessing your child's level of function. This is the time to share all your questions and concerns.
Once evaluated, your child will have a meeting and discuss the outcomes of the evaluation. If your child qualifies for services, you will begin your child's therapy with a therapist who will help guide you. If your child is in the age range of 3-5 years old, you will have to go through a Preschool Certified Agency. Ages 5-21 are assessed through your school district.
It is important to note you are your child's advocate. Should you feel your child needs additional assistance, do not hesitate to speak to the team coordinator. There are lawyers who specialize in Parent Advocacy to make sure your child is receiving appropriate services.
Techniques for Adapting To SPD
There are many reasons why a child is diagnosed with SPD. It is important to understand your child's specific reasons versus trying solutions that might not be appropriate. For example, for a child who has issues with textures I would start with some body work such as wheelbarrow walking, frog jumps, and jumping into a pile of pillows 3 times. Then encourage them to play with play-doh. Over time, I would slowly introduce various textured items. However, a child with sensitivity towards playground equipment might have balance issues. I would slowly have them build up their balance and coordination. You have to understand the cause of SPD so you can complete appropriate activities to help improve their sensory integration and skill level.
Will Children ‘Grow Out’ Of It?
A child with SPD will NOT grow out of it. Children are resilient and figure out a way to adapt so they can function in society. However, the adaptations they make are not always the best solutions. It is important for your child to learn from professionals how to deal appropriately when they have an adverse reaction to sensory input.
It is important to properly identify your child's needs to help them acclimate into a world where they feel is safe and supportive. This allows them to try things they would have avoided, builds their confidence, and enhances their self-worth.