Sensory Processing Disorder, also known as SPD, refers to the way the nervous system receives messages and turns them into behavioral and motor responses. SPD occurs when sensory signals are not received or are processed into appropriate responses. It is often compared to a sensory “traffic jam” as the signals are too much to work through. Essentially, children with SPD do not respond to everyday sensory information the way most others do. With that said, here is a quick guide to managing sensory processing disorder.
What SPD Looks Like
SPD can look different from child to child. In a nutshell, these symptoms can range from sensory overstimulation, understimulation, and constant seeking of stimulation.
These symptoms appear as intense reactions to what others may interpret as minor sensory signals. For example, a child may cry out as if they were in pain if brushing their hair is too much sensory overload. Other causes include things such as lights that are too bright or harsh, loud noises.
When this happens, it is beneficial to have a designated safe place for the child to calm down, feel comfortable, and limit sensory stimuli. A quiet room with soft lighting and comfortable furniture can help. Other things to consider are their favorite toys to play with and noise-canceling headphones. Over time, gradually exposing them to the signals that cause symptoms can get easier.
On the other hand, a child may not recognize the sensory signals around them. They may seem unaware of their environment, even causing injuries that they do not notice. The child will seem aloof and withdrawn, unable to interpret their signals.
Activating their senses is important for understimulation. This can be done through specific, concentrated activities that they can focus on. Exercises, games, and toys, and activities they find interesting are a great way to help them stay engaged. Essentially, providing energy and intensity is key.
When a child is constantly searching for and craving stimulation, this is sensory seeking SPD. They often have trouble sitting still, are usually very energetic, and are constantly looking for new stimulation.
For these symptoms, it is important to refrain from using sensory stimulation as a reward for behavior. Instead, provide the child with the input they need at the moment for their behavior. Withholding the sensory signals until they behave correctly will not work. It is more effective to help teach them to ask for the sensory stimulation they need.
The Best For Your Child
At Blossom, we highlight the potential in each and every child who walks through our doors. Our Occupational Therapy is just one of the many services we offer your child to help with diagnoses such as SPD. Everyone deserves the attention and respect they deserve, children and parents alike! We know you’ll love it here. Contact us today to learn more!