I bet few of you know that it is Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month. Don't worry, I didn't know until the other day either. And I'm an OT! I felt like I should have known. So to celebrate SPD Month, I wanted to share some insight, websites, and other tidbits about it.
First, how many senses do you have? I bet you said 5: touch, taste, smell, sight, sound. Well, if you said that, you are partially correct. In fact, you have seven, and I bet you forgot Proprioception and Vestibular senses. Proprioception is the way your body and brain sense how much force is needed, like the ability to judge how to tap your neighbor to say excuse me rather than punching them. Vestibular sensations allow your body to understand your head's position in space, like if you are tilted, upside-down or right side up. And when any of these senses are not working properly, then you get .....Sensory Processing Disorder. When the brain and body cannot quite understand how to interpret and execute functioning in the world around them.
Research has been going on for years and many have been working diligently, advocating to the American Psychiatric Association to have it added to the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders now working on 5th version due out 2013). But they have been met with caution since SPD can look like ADHD, Autism Spectrum disorders, and other illnesses, or be secondary underneath them. But the SPD Foundation has recently shed positive news saying that possibly Sensory Under Responsiveness and Over responsiveness may be an associated feature under the Autism Spectrum, which may help people get insurance to cover much needed clinical treatment. I can only hope! I know too many that get denied and have to pay out of pocket!
But in the meantime, to support a child with an SPD takes a lot of patience, trial and error. But there are people out there wanting to help. First, if you suspect you or your child is having a hard time, talk to your pediatrician and possibly get a referral for an OT evaluation. But be ready to be on a long waiting list. In the mean time, talk with your child's teacher to see how they are doing in school. If they appear to be struggling, meet with the educational team and request a screening. If you've been there already, check out companies like Fun and Function who wanted to make sensory items affordable, as often they are not. And get connected. Often other parents and therapists can lead you in the right direction of who to see, what to get, as well as be a shoulder of support. Last, or maybe I should say, Always, keep your head up. You are your child's best and most loving advocate. Be open. Be loving. Be patient.
Check these out!
Do You Know Me? by Melissa Zacherl
Sensory World Poster
Sensory Street Parent Tool
Sensory Street Research
Heavy Work Activities