This month, with a new school year starting, I thought it might be an appropriate time to talk about key signs that you might see in a child with Sensory Processing Disorder that would necessitate a more thorough evaluation.
Keep in mind that the following list is in no way exclusive and that your child may have other variations. Also, for a person to actually be shown to have a sensory processing disorder, the symptoms must have a definite impact on activities of daily living such as dressing, grooming, eating, bathing, learning, etc...
- responds to being touched with withdrawal or aggression (hates to be kissed or hugged unless they initiate it)
- irritated by tags, seams or other variations in clothing texture
- is seen as a very "picky" eater; may get stuck on certain foods and/or avoid others
- May be extremely sensitive to smells that do not bother most or may be overly oblivious to smells most cannot stand
- May be uncomfortable in loud or busy environments such as malls or sporting events; May cover ears with hands; Or may seek out loud sounds (i.e. turning up the volume on the radio or television )
- Has significant difficulty with most transitions and/or resists new situations
- May show problems with fine motor (using small muscles for handwriting or buttoning) or gross motor (using large muscles for skipping or jumping ) coordination, muscle tone and motor planning (which basically is figuring out how to make your body do what you want it to).
- May avoid doing schoolwork and/or peer group activities because of motor and/or sensory "differences"
- May show extreme behavioral outbursts, even in public, when confronted with aversive stimuli (such as variations in temperature, loud noises, and smells). Sometimes it may seem as if the person is experiencing extreme pain given the scope of the reaction.
- Often times the child with SPD is seen as having significant behavioral problems, low self-esteem, trouble concentrating, trouble making friends, having frequent temper tantrums, and/or having learning problems. Children with SPD may also be labeled as being "aggressive", "distractible", "impulsive"," withdrawn", "clumsy" etc.
- Often times symptoms of SPD overlap with symptoms of other diagnoses such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder). Research has shown that SPD can exist alone or in combination with other diagnoses.
It is really imperative to seek the support and guidance of knowledgeable professional(s) when you see these types of signs and symptoms in a child you know. It can mean the difference between a lot of suffering for the child and family or a guiding source of help and hope! Take it from me. I've been there and am still working through many daily challenges with my own child with SPD!
Christopher R. Auer, MA is the author of Parenting a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder: A Family Guide to Understanding and Supporting Your Sensory Sensitive Child (New Harbinger, 2006) Additional information at http://www.spdresources.com or email email@example.com
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