Have you noticed your child being extra clumsy? Do they regularly freak out about their clothes or socks? Do they react unusually negatively to bright lights or loud sounds?
It is not surprising for children to behave extra sensitively about new experiences or situations. The little people around us can get unreasonably sensitive when their senses are overwhelmed. Even as adults, some of us develop certain sensory preferences, like some of us can’t stand the smell of lemon or the texture of cooked mushrooms. We all develop certain preferences on how our bodies react to the world, and some of us can be more sensitive than others.
All this is normal. But sometimes, the way kids process sensory information becomes problematic and starts affecting their day-to-day lives; chances are that they have been suffering from sensory processing disorder (SPD). Let us understand what sensory processing disorder is and how it affects different individuals.
What is a sensory processing disorder?
Sensory processing disorder can be equated to a traffic jam in your brain. It is a condition where the brain reacts dysfunctionally toward certain stimuli – such as sounds, smells, tastes, etc. As per a 2013 study by the University of California, San Francisco, as many as 5-10% of school-going children are affected by sensory processing disorder.
Some might feel distressed by the way their clothes rub on their skin, while others might be extra sensitive to certain food smells, textures, or sounds. Some triggers might also be more nuanced and less visible to an observer. For instance, some children feel a rush in certain movements like roller coaster rides or swings. Children also struggle with their sleep patterns or the sound of their heartbeats.
Symptoms of SPD
The first step toward recognizing SPD and opting for proper treatments is recognizing the warning signs and symptoms that have been affecting your child’s life.
- refusal to wear certain kinds of fabrics because they feel itchy, painful, or uncomfortable,
- being clumsy and constantly bumping into objects,
- reacting strongly to sounds and lights,
- being constantly in motion,
- being extra sensitive to smells and complaining of smells that other people might not even notice,
- avoiding being in new or crowded situations,
- being afraid of getting touched by others, etc.
Read more: Most Common Teenage Social Issues.
Ways to help a child with SPD?
When you start noticing certain atypical behaviors in your child, taking proper notes and sharing your observations with a professional is necessary. Once you have an accurate diagnosis from a qualified professional, there are several ways in which you can help your child.
1. Start therapy
Starting therapy early is highly beneficial for a child with a sensory processing disorder. There are several types of therapy that you can opt for. These include:
- Occupational therapy: In this type of therapy, the therapist helps the child perform activities they refuse to do otherwise due to their sensory responses. The therapist can also work with the child’s teacher to support their needs in the classroom.
- Physical therapy: A therapist can also help your child develop a sensory diet or a list of activities that can satisfy the cravings for sensory inputs. These can also include physical activities like jumping jacks or running from one point to another.
- Sensory integration therapy: This approach helps the child learn various ways to deal with their sensory responses.
Read more: Best Online Therapy Platforms
2. Create a smart sensory atmosphere at home
Creating a smart sensory environment for your child at home that specifically caters to their senses can make a big difference for them. You can work with your child’s therapist to integrate various items and activities in your home to help your child’s senses. These can include therapy balls and weighted blankets.
Sensory processing disorder is a very real condition that can cause significant distress in the life of children and their caregivers. There is no magic cure for the condition. However, with proper help and support, the child can eventually recover from the condition successfully.
To understand the signs and symptoms of such mental health disorders in your child, you must be aware of the broad spectrum of mental health issues. To find out more, read the best mental health awareness blogs here.
To continue learning about mental health, subscribe to Your Mental Health Pal.