What is a sensory processing disorder?
SPD or Sensory Processing Disorder is an ailment that affects how a person's brain processes stimuli or sensory information stimuli. Sensory information comprises things you touch, taste, see, smell, or hear. SPD can influence all of your senses, or sometimes only one. Sensory Processing Disorder usually means you're excessively sensitive to provocations that other people might not be. But this condition can also cause the opposite effect. In such cases, it takes more stimuli to impact a person.
Children are highly likely to have SPD than most adults. But adults can develop symptoms, too. In grown-ups, it's expected these indicators have existed since their childhood. However, they have found ways to deal with Sensory Processing Disorders that let them conceal their disorder from other people, be it family, friends, or anyone else.
There has been some discussion among doctors regarding Sensory Processing Disorder and whether it is a separate disorder. Some specialists argue it isn't, while others say it's an analysis of things that could be justified as standard behavior in children. Some doctors suggest that some children might feel just highly delicate.
Some specialists say that Sensory Processing Disorder is a symptom of other illnesses — such as hyperactivity, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, etc. — and not a separate disorder. Others believe a child can suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder without any other disorder. Some doctors say that it is clear that certain children have problems managing stimuli or regular sensory information. As of now, Sensory Processing Disorder isn't acknowledged as a distinct medical identification.
Sensory Processing Disorder is an ailment in which the human brain has trouble obtaining and reacting to information that is gained through the five primary senses, i.e., sense of touch, taste, sight, smell, or hearing. Previously known as sensory integration disorder, it is not presently acknowledged as an official medical diagnosis.
People with SPD are hypersensitive to things in their surroundings. Familiar sounds or noises may be overwhelming or even painful at times. The slight touch of cloth may scrape the skin.
People with sensory processing disorder may:
- Bump into things
- Be uncoordinated
- Be challenging to play or engage in conversation with
- Be incapable of differentiating where their limbs are
Sensory processing issues are usually recognized in children. But they can also severely affect adults. Sensory processing difficulties are typically seen in developmental disorders like autism spectrum disorder.
SPD is not acknowledged as a separate disorder. But many medical specialists think that it should be modified.
Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder:
SPD or Sensory Processing Disorder can affect multiple senses or just one sense. Children who suffer from SPD may overreact to food textures, sounds, and clothing. Or they may even underreact to sensory information. This causes them to need more thrill-seeking and intense stimuli. Some instances include leaping off high things or hanging too high from swings on the playground. Also, children with Sensory Processing Disorder are not always just one specific sensitivity or the other. Depending on their surroundings, they can be a mixture of under-sensitive and oversensitive.
SPD can affect one of the five senses, like taste, hearing, or touch. Or it can affect numerous senses. And certain people can be under- or over-responsive to the fixations they have problems with.
Like many diseases, the symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder exist in a specific range.
In particular children, for instance, the sound of a leaf blower out the window may cause them to dive under the table or vomit. They might scream when you touch them. They might withdraw from the textures of particular foods. But some others seem insensitive to anything and everything in their surroundings. They may even be unresponsive to extreme cold or heat or even pain.
Most children with Sensory Processing Disorder start as overly fussy babies who become nervous and anxious as adults. More often than not, these kids don't manage change well. They might frequently have meltdowns or throw tantrums.
Many children have signs like these from time to time. But medical specialists consider a diagnosis of SPD when the symptoms have become severe enough to influence the normal functioning of everyday life and might disrupt it.
Children may be temperamental if:
- They feel that the lights seem too bright.
- They think their clothing feels too itchy or scratchy.
- They sense that soft touches feel too stiff.
- The sounds seem too loud to them.
- Food textures make them gag.
- They are scared to play on the swings.
- They appear clumsy or have poor balance.
- They react poorly to loud noises, bright lights, sudden movements, or touches.
- They have behavior problems.
Sometimes these symptoms are connected to poor motor skills also. Your child may have problems holding scissors or a pencil. They may have low muscle tone or issues climbing the stairs. They might also have language setbacks.
In older children, these symptoms can cause low self-esteem and low self-confidence. This can lead to social seclusion and, at times, even depression.
Children may be sensory-seeking or under-sensitive if:
- They can't sit still
- They can spin without getting dizzy.
- They seek thrills (love spinning, jumping, and heights).
- They don't recognize personal space.
- They don't pick up on social signals.
- They chew on things (including their clothing and hands).
- They have problems sleeping.
- They seek visual encouragement (like intelligent devices).
- They don't recognize when their nose is running or their face is dirty.
Test for Sensory Processing Disorder:
Diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder will usually follow a detailed screening performed by either a Physiotherapist or an Occupational Therapist. The screening will typically consist of an assessment of structured observations and standardized testing of your child's response to eye movements, balance, sensory stimulation, coordination, and posture.
Currently, the standard assessment tool used to analyze SPD is the Praxis and Sensory Integration Tests. It consists of seventeen tests that are used to test many aspects of your child's sensory processing. The Praxis and Sensory Integration Tests assess the motor developmental components of the proprioceptive, vestibular, tactile, visual, and kinesthetic systems.
During the diagnosis, it will also be necessary to converse with the parents or the caretakers regarding the child's developmental record and any symptoms or signs they have noticed increasing in their child.
Early diagnosis is fundamental as this allows for earlier involvements to start. Earlier diagnosis also improves the chance of successful mediation, as it is easier to dispense to younger children when their brains are still evolving. Older children or adults can still receive efficient interventions but are usually more focused on managing and coping strategies.
In addition to standard assessments, clinical examinations are always conducted to evaluate real-life movements and how your child reacts to sensory stimuli in specific environments like their home and educational surroundings.
The Diagnostic Process:
Although Sensory Processing Disorder has not yet been officially recognized, this ailment can be recognized and categorized by a professional therapist with advanced sensory integration and processing training. Linking challenges to sensory impairments in functioning at home, school or work is of primary importance.
Identification and recognition usually begin with screening, a professional's hunt for any red flags that signify enough differences in a child's growth to permit a more detailed assessment. Screening can occur in the doctor's office, private practice clinic, or school. Wherever it ensues, you will likely be asked to fill out a couple of parent checklists and a growth history to accompany the observations of the professionals. The analysis will follow if differences exist that are adequate enough to permit further assessment. Keep in mind that a parent checklist is only a screening, and further testing is needed to finish an all-around evaluation.
An evaluation for Sensory Processing Disorder involves parent-report measures, standardized testing, and detailed clinical observations. If a multi-disciplinary panel is concerned, the evaluation process may include a psychological evaluation, speech/language evaluation, physical and general health assessment, and possibly a recommendation to medical or other medical specialists if a particular problem is spotted. A multi-disciplinary review is needed to rule out or rule in other related disorders such as anxiety disorder, Autism, ADHD, and so on.
Causes of Sensory Processing Disorder:
Specialists are not aware of what causes Sensory Processing Disorder. They have been exploring a genetic link to the illness, which means it could run in relatives and families. Some doctors believe there could be a connection between Sensory Processing Disorder and autism. This could indicate that adults who have autism might be more likely to have children who will have Sensory Processing Disorders. But it's necessary to note that most people with Sensory Processing Disorder don't have autism.
The exact causes of sensory processing issues have not yet been identified. But a decade-old study of twins found that oversensitivity to sound and light may have a vital hereditary component.
Other tests have shown that children with sensory processing difficulties have irregular brain activity when they are instantaneously exposed to sound and light.
Several other experiments have revealed that children with sensory processing troubles will continue to respond intensely to a loud sound or a gentle stroke on the hand, while other children rapidly get used to these sensations.
Diagnoses of sensory processing disorder:
Parents may identify that their child's behavior is not usual. But most parents might not know why so. Do not be scared to discuss your child's behavior with doctors or medical specialists. The doctor may refer you to a professional therapist. These experts can evaluate your child for Sensory Processing Disorder. They will likely examine your child's interact in certain situations. The therapists will ask the children specific questions. All of these factors will help the specialist make a diagnosis.
Living with a sensory processing disorder
Living with Sensory Processing Disorder can be difficult. Parents of children with Sensory Processing Disorders can feel unaided. They might even avoid taking their child out in public to evade sensory overload in their children. Parents may also have to make excuses for their children's erratic behavior.
Adults who have Sensory Processing Disorders may also feel isolated. Sensory overload can stop them from leaving their house. This can make it hard to go to work or the store.
Adults struggling with Sensory Processing Disorder should work with a professional therapist. The therapist can help them learn new responses to stimuli. This can cause changes in how adults deal with particular situations. And that can lead to an enhanced lifestyle.
Sometimes, even if Sensory Processing Disorder gets better with age or therapy, it might never go away. Stress or a significant life event can trigger symptoms.
Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder in Adults:
Adults with SPD or Sensory Processing Disorder feel attacked by the world and its strong perfumes, ticking clocks, and buzzing lights. If everyday textures and sounds feel excruciatingly distracting, read below to learn about the symptoms and signs of SPD in grown-ups.
SPD disrupts how the brain takes in, arranges, and uses the information received through the body's various receptors. We take sensory info through our muscles, eyes, ears, inner ears, joints, and skin and use these sensations for appropriate and immediate everyday functioning.
Grown-ups with Sensory Processing Disorder may display the following symptoms:
- Feeling that a shadow is pulled over the world.
- Experiencing muted touch sights and sounds.
- Frequent sensory overload feelings.
If you are oversensitive to the point that it delays your functioning, you may have a Sensory Processing Disorder. Many people describe the feeling as being attacked, invaded, or assaulted by everyday chores and experiences. They are bothered by textures or sounds that most people don't feel or hear. These occurrences can become emotionally and physically unbearable and highly disrupting. Even wrinkles in the sheets or loose hair on their neck can be a source of anxiety.
SPD, however, should not be confused for SPS, i.e., Sensory Processing Sensitivity, a biologically-based trait described by increased sensitivity and awareness of the environment. SPS is not linked to dysregulation but with a depth of processing and understanding, requiring time to process stimuli and information.