Today begins a week long series on SPD, and it only makes sense to start out with an introduction to sensory processing disorder. What is sensory processing disorder? Web MD describes it like this: “Sensory processing disorder is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.” Before reading further, I encourage you to get a better understand of this condition by reading these 5 misconceptions of sensory processing.
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Why Sensory Processing?
Before getting into some of the basics of sensory processing, I want to answer the questions, “Why sensory processing? Why do I care? What is my experience? How can I help?”
I have a child who has sensory needs. My friend Joyy Lopez, who is doing this series with me, has a child who also has SPD. We have spent a lot of time talking and have decided to come together to discuss what we have learned with you.
We both have children who have done SPD therapy. There has been a lot of reading and research done to figure out how to best help our own children. As always at Meaningful Mama, I want to inspire and equip. My goal is to come alongside other mamas as they seek to be more intentional and effective in their parenting. As we discover how to best love and parent our kids with sensory processing, we begin to see real changes and growth. It is inspiring to experience. I want to encourage other moms and say, “I’ve seen great progress, and you can too!”
An Introduction to Sensory Processing Disorder
I hope you read the link I just referenced above because it shows you that sensory processing varies from child to child and is often misunderstood. Therefore, each person facing SPD will have different needs and experience those needs to varying degrees. It’s a complex puzzle, so additional, professional help might be needed for your child. After all, he or she was created uniquely so will need a plan that it specified to their specific gifts and challenges. There is, however, much I can share with you to start you on the process of understanding and helping your sensory kiddo.
Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder
Often when people think of sensory processing, they consider the child who becomes overwhelmed by sensory input. This definitely describes many of the kids dealing with SPD. Socks that have seams may be irritating. Tags will itch. Loud noises might cause a child to enter into a meltdown phase – learn more about a tantrum vs. a sensory meltdown here. This child might have anxiety when there is a lot of visual or auditory stimulus in a room. Food textures might be challenging. Some will avoid touching certain substances.
Other kids with SPD can seem unresponsive to sensory input so come to crave more. This child always wants their hands in the mud and slime. They want a lot of pressure on their body, loving lycra swings and huge beanbags on top of them. Pressure and sensory input brings comfort and calm.
I just described two camps, but really there is a spectrum and sensory kids can be found anywhere in between. My child, for example, craves sensory input and yet can become overwhelmed by too much stimulus. There’s a hard balance to find, so it takes experimentation and knowing your child to best help when needed.
There are a variety of ways you’ll see sensory kids exhibit “symptoms” of their struggle. Some will avoid. Some will crave. Many will have meltdowns. Anger and anxiety might be a component. If anger is an issue, here’s some help and here is some more help. There are children who seems overactive while others might be super low energy and unmotivated. Some sensory kids are impulsive. You might experience crying, screaming, hitting, biting, running away, hiding, burying themselves under covers, non-responsiveness, falling asleep or even headaches that set in.
Parenting a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder
One thing to know about the SPD kid is that often traditional parenting techniques don’t work. There are additional or completely different tools needed for parenting.
One example is that when a sensory kid faces a meltdown, it is important not to discipline in the moment. Often times kids with sensory needs enter into the fight or flight mode when anger or frustration sets in. A short summary of this is that blood is flowing away from their brain into their bodies, which is why you might see a more physical response to their meltdown. Further, rationalizing or speaking common sense into the child does not work during that time. Read more about that in an article I wrote here.
An essential component of parenting a child with SPD is to remain calm. I struggle with this, and it has taken years of working on my own self-control to do it better. It can be frustrating, but I find that when I show my own anger, things escalate. When I can parent in a calm way, the episodes are resolved more quickly.
It is important to find a good way to calm your child. Some children will need to be removed from a sensory overloaded environment. Giving them some quiet time in a safe space will be important. Other children will respond to tight hugging 0r “hard work” (more on that this week). You will pursue sensory tools that provide a sensory retreat for your child (more on that this week).
Once a child is calm, teaching and appropriate discipline can be administered.
A Week Series on Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory Processing Disorder is obviously complex. There’s no one shoe that fits all solution. That said, there are commonalities found in SPD kids, and we want to provide you with some resources this week.
Here’s what the week is going to look like:
Monday (today) – An Introduction to Sensory Processing Disorder
Tuesday – Sensory Processing and the Heavy Work Activities Solution
Wednesday – Sensory Processing Tools for Children
Thursday – Taking Your Sensory Processing Child to Disneyland
Friday – DIY Mouse Ears for Children with SPD and Autism
Saturday – How to Pray for Your Child with Sensory Processing
I want to let you know about another great resource from Dayna at Lemon Lime Adventures. She has written the book Sensory Processing 101, which can help you understand and better parent your child with sensory needs.
Thank you for bringing this to light. I am going to keep digging and reading what you and the other bloggers have put together. I think this could really help with one of my children who I just don’t understand. I also appreciate your honesty on having to practice better self control and not react out of frustration during a melt down. It helps tremendously to know I am not alone.
This article has been wonderful to read and I can’t thank you enough for providing a place for parents to feel validated and understood. For it being such an unheard of topic it is very difficult to get other people to understand what your child is going through and experiencing in their struggles with sensory input. Victoria feel free to contact me if you need to talk to another “sensory” mom. (email@example.com)
It is so important to get the word out about SPD because so many parents might not understand this is why the struggle is happening within the family. The more we can understand and be equipped, the better we can love and parent our kids in ways that are truly effective. It’s also so helpful to know you are not alone. It’s not easy, but there is hope. 🙂 Thanks for reaching out.