Sensory Processing Disorder – What is it?
The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation has some interesting information for families. Below is a checklist they have on their website which I thought was important to share as not only do I believe we are ALL sensory sensitive at times, but I have 2 little boys who struggle going about their daily lives due to this disorder.
Infant/ Toddler Checklist:
____ My infant/toddler has problems eating.
____ My infant/toddler refused to go to anyone but me.
____ My infant/toddler has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
____ My infant/toddler is extremely irritable when I dress him/her; seems to be uncomfortable in clothes.
____ My infant/toddler rarely plays with toys, especially those requiring dexterity.
____ My infant/toddler has difficulty shifting focus from one object/activity to another.
____ My infant/toddler does not notice pain or is slow to respond when hurt.
____ My infant/toddler resists cuddling, arches back away from the person holding him.
____ My infant/toddler cannot calm self by sucking on a pacifier, looking at toys, or listening to my voice.
____ My infant/toddler has a “floppy” body, bumps into things and has poor balance.
____ My infant/toddler does little or no babbling, vocalizing.
____ My infant/toddler is easily startled.
____ My infant/toddler is extremely active and is constantly moving body/limbs or runs endlessly.
____ My infant/toddler seems to be delayed in crawling, standing, walking or running.
____ My child has difficulty being toilet trained.
____ My child is overly sensitive to stimulation, overreacts to or does not like touch, noise, smells, etc.
____ My child is unaware of being touched/bumped unless done with extreme force/intensity.
____ My child has difficulty learning and/or avoids performing fine motor tasks such as using crayons and fasteners on clothing.
____ My child seems unsure how to move his/her body in space, is clumsy and awkward.
____ My child has difficulty learning new motor tasks.
____ My child is in constant motion.
____ My child gets in everyone else’s space and/or touches everything around him.
____ My child has difficulty making friends (overly aggressive or passive/ withdrawn).
____ My child is intense, demanding or hard to calm and has difficulty with transitions.
____ My child has sudden mood changes and temper tantrums that are unexpected.
____ My child seems weak, slumps when sitting/standing; prefers sedentary activities.
____ It is hard to understand my child’s speech.
____ My child does not seem to understand verbal instructions.
___ My child is overly sensitive to stimulation, overreacts to or does not like touch, noise, smells, etc.
___ My child is easily distracted in the classroom, often out of his/her seat, fidgety.
___ My child is easily overwhelmed at the playground, during recess and in class.
___ My child is slow to perform tasks.
___ My child has difficulty performing or avoids fine motor tasks such as handwriting.
___ My child appears clumsy and stumbles often, slouches in chair.
___ My child craves rough housing, tackling/wrestling games.
___ My child is slow to learn new activities.
___ My child is in constant motion.
___ My child has difficulty learning new motor tasks and prefers sedentary activities.
___ My child has difficulty making friends (overly aggressive or passive/ withdrawn).
___ My child ‘gets stuck’ on tasks and has difficulty changing to another task.
___ My child confuses similar sounding words, misinterprets questions or requests.
___ My child has difficulty reading, especially aloud.
___ My child stumbles over words; speech lacks fluency, and rhythm is hesitant.
Imagine you are at your favourite Cafe. You are there with your family, wanting to enjoy a relaxing breakfast out. Just think for a moment about the noise and buzz that is associated with this place. Think about all the noises that (most likely) you are able to block out. Consider there are about 30 plus people, of varying ages and voice pitch. The Cafe is suddenly filled with a low, but noisy and bustling hum of its customers quietly chatting to each other. They talk, sometimes giggle, raise their voice slightly, or a child screeches. Add to this sound the other bits and pieces we are able to block out. The glasses clinking, a cash register clinging. Cutlery clanging (both as they tap the plates of those eating, and inside as they are being washed. Don’t forget the few that crash to the floor which makes everyone jolt to attention). The huge coffee machines are a constant whirring and bubbling, which the blenders are whizzing noisily on endless smoothies and shakes. The fridges make a white noise rumble in the background which may be accompanied by music of varying tempos, and volumes. Now imagine you can’t block any of this noise out, and that each sound transcends the next, building and building to a blinding crescendo which is unbelievably hostile and confusing. Imagine also, that these sounds then amplify the visual aspects of your disorder so all you see is a blinding white. You can see your mother’s mouth moving, but you don’t know what she is saying. You try to read her face, but you can’t.
I am ashamed and deeply saddened that as a new mum I wasn’t aware of this thing called Sensory Processing Disorder. I wasn’t aware that going to a Cafe for breakfast was for my children an exhausting and at times terrifying ordeal. I saw some of the signs, but wasn’t totally aware of how they were affecting my little boys. I found these outings exhausting. The melt downs at just entering was enough to make me cringe. ‘Please, please don’t scream when you see someone’. ‘Please just say hello, or even put your head down and whisper hello’ was often my silent prayer as we entered. My other boy would become amplified and his talk and chatter would escalate over the guests. He would fidgit and squirm with an ever increasing energy level that became exhausting just to keep him in check. He could never be still on his seat, other times he would be sliding to the floor. He would knock water over and if it splashed his shirt he would break down. Other guests would look at us and at times roll their eyes, and I didn’t blame them. They were entitled to an uninterrupted breakfast break, why should they be disturbed by this boy who screamed and cried all the time, and one that just couldn’t sit still. We did attempt to deal with each outburst the best we knew how and removed them to a quiet place, or asked to be seated near the outside of the cafe. Outside was always slightly better than being inside the cafe. Inside was always an amplification of the noise, smells, and lights. It was inside when I sadly noticed one of my boys making his way under the table and chair in an attempt to escape his senses.
Oh how I have cried at their pain and my ignorance. But I am always seeking to understand to the best of my ability. There are a couple of Youtube clips I felt were essential to share, as they are practical in their application of showcasing the experiential effects of this disorder. It really helped me get a greater understanding as to how their lives are affected.
Here is a slip of Sensory overload simulation which I believe is extremely close to the mark when it comes to my boys. I know the sheer volume at both daycare and school are exhausting for them. I have often found both (who respond very differently) in various states of ‘loss’ in these noisy environments. One licks his fingers, flicks his hands slightly, and may walk in circles, the other just appears as though he is in a different planet and stares into space. Please, I urge you to follow the instructions in this first clip as asked to get a true indication as to what this is like.
This clip I found really interesting. However, while it states ‘Autism’ I also believe it is for anyone with Sensory Processing Disorder. This highlights why sometimes my boys wonder and look bewildered and confused and sometimes stunned when I call them.
So, next time you see a child melting down and parents looking exhausted, please spare a thought for them. This may not be a child having a tantrum as they didn’t get their own way, it may be a child who is bombarded with so much sensory input it actually hurts.
All the parents desire is a sense of ‘normalcy’, while the poor child craves it as well.
Most importantly, if you feel that your child may be experiencing an overload of their senses, please take positive steps to help them.