Is Sensory Processing Disorder the New ADHD?
By : Dawn Bowman
As parents, we’ve heard all about ADHD. But not many parents are aware of the variety of other disorders our children could be suffering from. We’re quick to chalk up their temper tantrums and acting out to “just being a kid,” but that’s not always the case.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Children with sensory processing disorder (SPD) have difficulty sensing, processing, and responding to sensory information. It is a neurological disorder and there is currently no known cure but there are treatments.
It may help to think of sensory processing disorder as the body getting its “wires crossed.” The body receives information from the five senses: taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell. For most of us, our brains receive that information and decide what to do and how to adjust to our environment.
We grab a hot baking sheet without a pot holder and burn our hand. We feel pain. Our brain tells our hand to let go of the hot baking sheet ASAP. We do so. We learn how to behave in future situations in this way as well. In this case, our brain remembers that grabbing something hot causes pain and does its best to prevent that situation in the future.
But in people with SPD, their brain processes and interprets that sensory information differently. What may seem like a noisy store to you may be completely overwhelming to a child with SPD.
SPD may involve either hyposensitivity or hypersensitivity, sometimes both. Hyposensitivity means they are LESS sensitive to stimuli than “normal.” Hypersensitivity means they are MORE sensitive to stimuli than “normal.”
Warning Signs that your Child may have Sensory Processing Disorder
Hypersensitivity may cause a child to feel pain from tactile stimuli that would usually not cause pain. A child with SPD may feel pain when putting on a sweater or other “rough” piece of clothing, for example. They may also dislike being touched or held.
Hypersensitive children with SPD may also feel pain from normal light or normal sounds.
Children who are hyposensitive may feel under-stimulated in everyday situations. They may seem restless and actively seek additional sensory stimulation.
Other warning signs for SPD in children include difficulty with balance, spinning, and crashing or bumping into things.
If you think your child may have sensory processing disorder or autism, speak to your pediatrician.