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What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

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Do you ever wonder if your child could have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

SPD is a disorder of the brain where sensory input (touch, sight, sound, smell) is received, but is then poorly interpreted. Kids with SPD often "over-feel" or "under-feel" noises, sounds, smells, and sensations. Experts now believe that up to 13% of children may have Sensory Processing Disorder and that the majority of that number are boys.

Does your child:

  • cover his ears at the first sign of noise?

  • become agitated when the seams on his socks don’t line up, or refuse to wear socks and shoes at all?

  • avoid foods with certain textures and refuse to eat all but a few different foods?

  • chew on non-food items well past the mouthing stage?

  • bump, push, or squeeze too hard without realizing it?

  • spin around or jump on the couch to excess?

  • fall down a lot?

  • have poor handwriting or trouble handling food utensils?

Of course, many children do one or more of these things and don't have SPD. My own kids have shown a few of these signs over the years. One lived in leggings and sweats for years because jeans were "too rough." She has also worn out our couch from jumping and flipping on it. The other tends to fall frequently (better now that she's older), but still has terrible handwriting. It's really when symptoms add up to something that concerns you that you need to bring them to your doctor.

Curious to learn more? Here are 5 quick facts about SPD:

Sensory Processing Disorder is not autism. Though kids who have autism, ADHD, and Fragile X syndrome are at higher risk for SPD, kids with SPD do not necessarily have autism.

SPD appears to run in families. So when your mother-in-law pops up and says that your son or daughter is "just like her dad," she's probably right.

Kids don't outgrow SPD. Though SPD is often identified (these days) in early childhood, it is a lifelong condition. However, learned coping strategies can reduce the severity of symptoms in adulthood.

SPD is controversial. SPD is not yet a "stand-alone" diagnosis like autism or ADHD, but many believe that it should be.

Help is available. If you think that your child is showing signs of SPD, your school's occupational therapist may be able to help. If your child is not yet school age, contact your local early intervention program for an evaluation.

Share your experience with Sensory Processing Disorder with us in comments below.

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