Friday, March 29, 2013

Being an SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) Parent

I will always remember the moment that my daughter's speech therapist told me the results of her assessment: Veronica had Sensory Processing Disorder (otherwise known as “sensory integration dysfunction").

I wrote Veronica's Story back in June of 2011, but recent interactions with a friend who just found out that her son has SPD and a couple of associates of mine who are struggling with the intricacies of SPD that affect their childrens behavior have spurred my mind (and fingers) to type up another article about SPD.

If you haven't read my daughter's story, you may want to read that first (click here). It has a lot of basic information about SPD if your child was just recently diagnosed with it.

To protect the privacy of people, I won't mention names, but I was chatting with a friend on Facebook about a week ago. Her son was recently diagnosed with SPD, and she felt just like I did when I had found out about Veronica. You see, Sensory Processing Disorder is a quirky disorder that has the ability to drive parents of affected children nuts, especially if a diagnosis has not been made. By the time the diagnosis has been made, many parents (like me) are entirely frustrated and fed up.

What is SPD Like?

Imagine a child with a bit of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Alzheimer's, and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder - not the hyperactive one, ADHD). Swirl together the obvious characteristics of these disorders and then add "behavior problems", social problems, anxiety, and aggressiveness...Or, mix and match some of the above - no SPD is the same. There are no "typical" SPD cases. And, that's why Sensory Processing Disorders are quite often misdiagnosed, leaving parents and teachers baffled, confused, and frustrated with the child.

Basically, Sensory Processing Disorder is a chronic difficulty with processing information from the senses. The brain and the senses aren't working together like they are supposed to. Occupational therapist and neuroscientist, A. Jean Ayres, PhD, called SPD a "neurological traffic jam", referring to how the disorder prevents specific areas of the brain from getting the data that is necessary in order to correctly make sense of the sensory information.

But, it also causes issues that may seem absolutely strange to people who do not have the disorder. For example, my daughter cannot stand the sound of keys jingling like most of us cannot stand the sound of fingernails scraping down a chalk board.

Additionally, the frustration that a child with SPD feels may lead to what we would usually categorize as "behavior problems". This is exactly what made me feel so bad when I found out that Veronica had SPD...what I once thought were "behavior issues" was actually her way of getting out the frustration of not being understood or not being able to understand herself.

Being an SPD Parent

I will say that, in my experience, being an SPD parent does get easier over time. You will learn coping strategies and, as time goes on, you can teach your child how to cope, too.

And, while this is easier said than done, ultimately, this is your only choice, because you want your child to be able to thrive in this world without you holding their hand for everything they do. You want them to be able to live a fulfilled life.

Check out the Mommy Rantings Facebook wall today for a question from an SPD mommy.

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