October seems to be a big month for many things, from breast
cancer awareness to caramel flavoring month. It also is Sensory
Processing Disorder Awareness month and for me, it is personal as I
help spread the word.
I'll never forget when I had my first instinct that my son may
have Sensory Processing Disorder. He was 14 months old and we were
at a family party. My cousin was using the blender and my son put
his hands over his ears. We all chuckled at it. Then I began
putting some pieces together, including that he hated to walk on
the sand and he was only saying two words. At our 15-month
check-up, the speech delay was a red flag for my doctor who ordered
an evaluation. My heart sank. My son was off the chart in his gross
motor skills, but that didn't matter. It actually became a big clue
in his diagnosis.
My son can literally climb the curtains in our living room and
my kitchen cabinets with his bare feet. Some would shrug it off as,
"he's all boy," but sensory kids are those who need something
Sensory Processing Disorder is really confusing to explain, but
here is how I do it: Brains have roadway systems that allow cars to
get to point A to B without getting lost. Some roadway systems are
not yet complete so cars will come to a screeching halt or will go
Dukes of Hazzard and jump onto another road. Sometimes it causes
traffic jams. This is when we see children (and adults) who cannot
process what is going on in their environment. For example, while
many of us can tune out the sound of a blender, my son couldn't.
Therefore the only way for him to "tune it out" was to cover his
Now that I have kids with SPD, I can spot others with it. These
kids are the ones who are constantly touching other kids (or their
parents) to the point of annoyance or hugging on others, not
understanding personal space. In order for them to understand their
space, they have to "feel it out" literally. Some kids hate tags on
their clothes and seams on their socks. This is my daughter. It
drives her (and me) batty. So we cut the tags and turn the socks
inside out. Many have a hard time sitting still and focusing in
school. Some will chew their clothes, pens, pencils or hair to get
Some kids are fearful in big crowds and they are the ones crying
and clinging to mom and dad. Or they go wild with excitement and
you literally have to drag them out by their feet. These kids are
labeled as hyperactive or mislabeled as ADHD, but those two can go
hand-in-hand. These "sensory-seeking" kids are doing just that,
seeking something that feels good. These kids make excellent
athletes and need activities like gymnastics, dancing, football and
wrestling to expend their energy. Don't be surprised if they are
skydiving or doing high-risk activities when they are older.
Professionals call them "risk-takers," which can serve them well
later in life (or not).
We all have sensory issues. For instance, I personally dislike
mushrooms because I don't like the way they feel in my mouth.
Others really dislike having their skin touched. We all have
something that makes us tick, though most have the capacity to turn
that on and off
Kids with SPD are often looked upon as having behavior issues.
They can be viewed as clingy, whiny and needy. It is up to us, as
parents, to better understand what makes them hide and seek, or
blow up. It is up to us parents to help get their cars get back
onto the right road. This is a team effort by therapists, teachers
and parents. It takes time, consistency, and a whole lot of
It has been a challenge for me as a parent. Having two spirited
children is a lot of fun, but also it also exhausts me by the end
of the day. Next week I'll share my challenges and struggles as a
parent and what I have found to be helpful for me, including books
If you are curious to know if your child is a sensory kid, you
can go over this
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