Saturday, October 8, 2011

National Sensory Awareness Month

October is National Sensory Awareness Month!

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurological disorder in which the brain and the senses (all 8 of them!) don't work together as they should. Some examples of this include frequent sensory overload (when the brain is unable to filter out irrelevant sensory input), motor difficulties (when the brain isn't able to coordinate the muscles to respond appropriately to stimuli), and difficulty interpreting sensory input (when the brain doesn't recognize the body's signals, such as hunger).

Individuals with SPD may be under-responsive or over-responsive to sensory input. Some may be sensory avoiders, overly sensitive to certain textures or sounds. This can have major implications for daily living, as they may find only certain types of clothing or food tolerable, and may find some places too overwhelming to be comfortable there. Some may be sensory seekers, crashing into everything, climbing or hanging upside down all the time. Sometimes it depends on the situation, and it's possible to have both sensory-seeking and sensory-avoiding responses depending on the type of sensory input.

Most of the examples I gave are part of our experience with our boys - all three of them have SPD along with autism. It's quite common for people on the autism spectrum to also have sensory issues, although it's possible to have one without the other and there are many people with SPD who are not on the autism spectrum. Sometimes SPD symptoms may be misinterpreted as ADHD, for example when a sensory-seeker is in constant motion, running and crashing, in an attempt to get the sensory input they need, or has difficulty staying on task because they frequently need to be up and moving around.

One of the most helpful books I've read on the topic is "The Out-of-Sync Child" by Carol Kranowitz. I read it soon after our twins were dx'd and it really helped me to get a better idea of what they were going through, which in turn helped me to be more patient with some of their more challenging behavior.

If you're looking for (or want to share with others) some insight into what it's like to have SPD, I highly recommend this article. An excerpt from it quotes Stanley Greenspan:
"Imagine driving a car that isn't working well. When you step on the gas the car sometimes lurches forward and sometimes doesn't respond. When you blow the horn it sounds blaring. The brakes sometimes slow the car, but not always. The blinkers work occasionally, the steering is erratic, and the speedometer is inaccurate. You are engaged in a constant struggle to keep the car on the road, and it is difficult to concentrate on anything else."

I've included some links below, feel free to share additional resources in the comments.

Helpful articles:
What is SPD?
How does it feel? - a short but very insightful look at what it's like for those who have SPD
SPD Signs and Symptoms
SPD Red flags

Sensory Processing Disorder
SPD Foundation
The SPD Blogger Network

About Me

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I'm a mom of three boys on the autism spectrum, 11-yr-old identical twins and a 7-yr-old. My husband is a SAHD.


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