What Is Sensory Processing Disorder? How To Diagnose Children With Sensory Issues
Written by Beth Arky.
This story is part of Speak Up for Kids, an annual public education program held during National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 6-12, 2012).
It usually happens in the preschool years. You notice that your toddler seems to have an unusual aversion to noise or light. A teacher observes that, compared to other kids her age, your daughter is clumsy and has difficulty with fine motor skills like wielding a pencil. You’ve noticed that she is very, very picky about shoes, which are often deemed too tight, and clothes that are “too scratchy.”
More baffling — and alarming — to parents are their children’s meltdowns over things like their faces getting splashed or being dressed. Or a child might crash into walls (and people), touch everything or put inedible items, including rocks and paint, into his mouth.
These behaviors are all signs of problems with what’s known as sensory processing, found in children who have difficulty integrating information from their senses. In its extreme form, when it interferes seriously with a child’s functioning, it’s called Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, although it’s not recognized by the psychiatrists’ bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
Sensory issues are associated with autism because they are common in children and adults on the autism spectrum, though most children with SPD are not on the spectrum. They can also be found in those with ADHD, OCD and other developmental delays — or with no other diagnosis at all. In fact, a 2009 study suggests that one in every six children has sensory issues that impede their daily functioning, socialization and learning.
What parents often notice first is odd behavior and wild, inexplicable mood swings. For instance, a first-grader may do fine in a quiet setting with a calm adult. But place that child in a grocery store filled with an overload of visual and auditory stimulation and you might have the makings of an extreme meltdown.
“These kids’ tantrums are so intense, so prolonged, so impossible to stop once they’ve started, you just can’t ignore it,” notes Nancy Peske, whose son Cole, now 13, was diagnosed at 3 with SPD and developmental delays. Peske is coauthor with occupational therapistLindsey Biel, who worked with Cole, of“Raising a Sensory Smart Child.”
Another response to being overwhelmed is to flee. If a child dashes out across the playground or parking lot, oblivious to the danger, Peske says that’s a big red flag that he may be heading away from something upsetting, which may not be apparent to the rest of us, or toward an environment or sensation that will calm his system. This “fight-or-flight response is why someone with SPD will shut down, escape the situation quickly, or become aggressive when in sensory overload,” she says. “They’re actually having a neurological ‘panic’ response to everyday sensations the rest of us take for granted.”
Read the full article here.
Source: Huff Post Parents
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