Sunday, January 23, 2011

What is SPD?

CMOTC mom Meghan A. has graciously offered to write a series of blog posts on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), with which her twins have been diagnosed. Her posts will explain SPD and some possible signs, as well as provide resources and a look into the therapy. She will also give you a glimpse into life with SPD, as she has learned from her sons. Thank you Meghan for your resources and insights!


As the first part of a series on SPD, or sensory processing disorder, I'd like to answer some questions about SPD itself. I am the mom of twin boys, both of whom were diagnosed with SPD at 2 1/2, about a year and a half ago.

What is SPD?

Sensory processing disorder, or SPD, is a neurological condition. While not "officially" a diagnosis of its own, it is on the final review list to be included in the 2012 DSM V, the manual doctors use to make diagnoses. It used to be called sensory integration dysfunction.

Sensory processing disorder causes the brain to misread information you take into your body through your five senses. Some people can over-respond, some under-respond or sensory-seek. Still others have issues with vestibular (balance) proprioception (body awareness) senses.


"Sensory processing (sometimes called "sensory integration" or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or "sensory integration."

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.

One study (Ahn, Miller, Milberger, McIntosh, 2004) shows that at least 1 in 20 children’s daily lives is affected by SPD. Another research study by the Sensory Processing Disorder Scientific Work Group (Ben-Sasson, Carter, Briggs-Gowen, 2009) suggests that 1 in every 6 children experiences sensory symptoms that may be significant enough to affect aspects of everyday life functions. Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder, like those of most disorders, occur within a broad spectrum of severity. While most of us have occasional difficulties processing sensory information, for children and adults with SPD, these difficulties are chronic, and they disrupt everyday life."

For a long time, many people thought that sensory issues ONLY related to autism. Many children, but not all, who have autism also have sensory issues. However, new research is showing that sensory processing disorder should be its own diagnosis.

How will I know?

There are many checklists available on the internet, but here's some signs:
-covers ears/cried at loud noises
-afraid to get hands messy (paint, etc.)
-food texture issues, spits out and refuses foods, limited diet
-becomes overwhelmed/shuts down in busy, noisy places
-complains things are too bright, loud, fast

-crashes into things, people
-seems to "need" to spin, move
-puts things in mouth constantly
-touches things, can't keep hands to self
(this can commonly lead to a mis-diagnosis of ADHD)

-trips over own feet
-balance issues
-seems to run into the only person in an empty room
-falls a lot
-always injured

What do I do?

Talk first to your doctor. Many doctors know little about SPD, so be prepared to have a formal evaluation done by an OT who specializes in sensory issues, more specifically one who is SIPT certified. See this link for a searchable database of these OTs. You will fill out a questionnaire, as well as go in for an OT session where the therapist works one on one with your child.

How is it treated?

Sensory based OT therapy looks a lot like play. In a sensory gym, you'll see ball pits, swings, slides, and a host of sensory activities that help create new neurological pathways in the brain and "retrain" more appropriate responses for kids with SPD. Sessions will be tailored to meet the needs of your child and their diagnosis.


Some of my favorite resources, besides those above:
-Sensational Kids, by Lucy Jane Miller, the foremost researcher in SPD.
-The Out of Sync Child
-The Elephant in the Playroom (a great book for kids with ANY type of special need)
-Autistic-like Graham's Story

Look forward to more posts about SPD, and how to recognize it. For more information, feel free to stop by my blog:

~ Meghan

1 comment:

  1. Sensory processing disorder in humans involves reception of a physical stimulus, transduction of the stimulus into a neural impulse, and the conscious experience of sensation. This disorders, negatively affect the human abilities in behavioral, emotional and mentally.


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