elevating child care

Recognizing Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD): Guest Post by Jonathan Evans

I regularly receive comments from parents expressing appreciation for the respectful parenting approach I share on my blog (Magda Gerber’s RIE approach). Occasionally, these same parents will then assert that this could not possibly work for their child with high needs or special needs, for any number of reasons. Over the years, I have consulted with many experts on the subject of RIE and children with special needs, and the majority refute that belief.
Dr. Jonathan Evans is one such specialist, and he generously offered to share his insights in this guest post about a subject “dear to his heart”: behavioral and learning difficulties in children and sensory processing:

What Parents Need to Know About Sensory Processing and SPD  

Sensitive observation is a central element of infant expert Magda Gerber’s RIE philosophy. When we practice the RIE principles and are present for our child, our sensitive observation often enables us to better understand what is going on for them, and parenting is extremely rewarding both for child and parent.

However, even in a perfect world where we are completely present and available for our child, there will be moments when we simply don’t understand why they are behaving or reacting a certain way. If these moments become more frequent, then we may find ourselves putting a label on our child’s behaviour. For example, “they’re colicky” or “they are teething”.

Sometimes this is 100% correct. Often, however, we simply don’t know. As our babies turn into toddlers, these difficult moments can multiply. If they start to join up, then we may start to describe them as behaviour issues. If things get really difficult, then our child may be described as being on the ‘spectrum’ or his behaviour may have other labels attached such as Aspergers or ADHD or SPD.

This is a subject very dear to my heart because not only do I specialize in the treatment of children and babies, but my 7 year old Makani has sensory processing disorder (SPD).  It’s all quiet in my house now as both my boys are in bed, but half an hour ago it was chaos – it was the nightly ‘teeth cleaning’ routine for my two boys, and unfortunately we had run out of their toothpaste so it had to be the adult brand.

First my 4 year old, on goes the adult toothpaste. A little bit of a registering from him that it tastes a bit different, but all good and off he goes to mum for a story. Next, my 7 year old. First, a calm explanation of the situation from me as he doesn’t handle surprises well. Then the toothpaste, and as soon as he tastes it things get difficult – tantrum, shouting, feet stamping, spitting out of the toothpaste and general refusal to co-operate in any way. It’s not fun, and I want to shout back at him. I manage to stay calm. I back off and we sit down in the bathroom to discuss the issue, his view, my view etc.

In the end we manage to compromise over a reduction in length of the teeth cleaning for tonight, along with the promise of his usual toothpaste tomorrow and the lining up along the sink of what seems like every vessel in the house that is capable of carrying water. We go at it again, and after an eternity involving all the water vessels and much rinsing and complaining, we are done!

So what have we got here? A naughty child and a good child? An indulged, spoiled 1st born and a meek 2nd child?  These types of questions and the behaviour that prompts them is what I talk to parents about every day that I’m in clinic.

“What is going on inside your child’s head when they are being difficult?”

Sometimes the answer is obvious – hunger, fatigue — but let’s look at a model that will shed light on the behaviours that we can’t explain.

The Sensory Processing Model

input, processing, output - software system

The understanding behind all human and animal behaviour is stimulus and response. There are the 5 senses (hearing, sight, touch, smell, taste) and a sixth, the balance mechanism (vestibular system).

  • We use our senses to gather information about our world
  • We send this information to the brain where it is processed
  • The brain then tells us what action we should take in response

Simple and predictable? Unfortunately not, as everyone processes the same stimuli slightly differently, and this is why we see different responses to the same event. This is true in adults and especially so in children whose brains are still developing.

The term sensory processing disorder (SPD) is used to describe a child who has difficulty processing ‘sensory information’. However, all children will experience situations where they can’t process the information that their brains are receiving. It is only the frequency and severity of these situations that separate these children from those with an ‘official’ SPD diagnosis.

Relevance for you as a parent

Let’s go back to my boy Makani. Taste is not his only Kryptonite. He also has an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), and we see difficulties in the other senses as well. If I was unaware of these sensory processing difficulties, then I would consider him very defiant, which would probably have led to one of two parenting options:

1)    Increase the discipline to combat the defiance

2)    Give in and let him do whatever wants

3)    A combination of both

None of these methods is addressing what is going on and, in fact, make matters worse. The third option is disastrous. We see this played out when a Dad (it’s usually Dad) enforces discipline for what he sees as an unruly child, and then Mum tries to dilute the discipline as she senses her connection with her child being permanently broken.

All three of these options create immense stress for the child which hugely influences the brain.

Stress and the Fight/Flight Response

If a child encounters a stimulus that he can’t process easily, how will he respond? In one of two ways: fight or flight. This fight/flight response is hard-wired in humans. In children we will see:

  • Fight – tantrums, shouting, crying, refusal to do something etc.
  • Flight – withdrawal – stopping of movement and hunkering down, avoidance of eye contact, refusing to speak or answer, refusal to do or go somewhere (by peaceful means as opposed to the defiance seen in flight response).

What is vital to know is that a little bit of stress = improved brain performance. A lot of stress and/or continued stress = poorer brain performance. This means that if a child is stressed by a stimulus and isn’t supported appropriately through that situation, then they are likely to get more stressed and less able to handle the next stimulus. Now and then isn’t a problem, but on a continuing basis this can lead to serious problems for that child.

Adaptation

If the overloading stimuli keep coming, then it is 100% certain that the child will adapt his behaviour in expectation of the next unwelcome stimulus. How does an intelligent child do this? He does it by controlling his environment. Can he control it 100%? Of course not, but he gives it his best shot anyway. This is when we start to see some of the following:

  • Continual movement and activity: flitting from one activity to the next, never stopping for one second. The child is trying to fill his brain 100% so that there is no room left for other unwelcome information. If the child initiates the stimulus, then he is in control of it, and it isn’t overwhelming. This is what is generally diagnosed as ADD or ADHD.
  • Ordering and making lists: whether it is dinosaurs, pencils or your desk (if you are an adult), excessive ordering and tidying is a way to control our environment, to block out stimuli and attempt to prevent future change. Diagnosis for this is OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
  • Defiance: if I just say ‘no’ to everything, less will happen that is outside of my control. How do we diagnose this behaviour in children? We call it ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder).
  • Talking loudly, making lots of noise, shouting, continually interrupting and asking questions. A child who exhibits this behaviour to an extreme is probably trying to drown out noise so they only have to process their own noise. With the interruptions and questions, they are pausing the flow of information to their ears in order to give themselves a chance to catch up and process what has been said. This is a classic APD (Auditory Processing Disorder) trait. I know I have done this myself all through my life, and I only realised it in my 30’s when I started working in this field! (Apologies to past girlfriends for all those arguments in the car when you were giving me directions and I got us lost and blamed you!)
  • ‘Perfect’ behaviour when away from the home and/or when away from parents; poor behaviour at home. This often occurs with kids that have very high levels of stress. They often shut down and go inward when they are out of the home as a defence mechanism, but then they can blow up when they are at home. This is because home is actually the only place they feel safe enough to express their bottled up feelings. Very common is to see school reporting a model child (i.e. one that doesn’t cause any trouble or disruption or says nothing much at all), and this leaves the parent a  bit confused as this isn’t the picture at home at all.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

So I have a son with APD, and I have APD. Coincidence? Of course it is. He had a difficult birth, and I was hit on the ear by a cricket ball when I was four. Anyway, this is what I’d like to believe, and definitely those two incidents have affected our ability to process. However, having worked in this field for a while now, I have seen far too many ‘coincidences’.

I mention this because it is very important for parenting. If you or your partner have a similar ‘processing issue’, then both parties are probably creating a lot of stress for each other and winding each other up until one or both explodes. This is a negative downward spiral that must be addressed. Now, it is also likely that if a parent has reached adulthood without realising they have a processing issue, then they are usually very reluctant to look at that. So please don’t bash your partner over the head with an accusation and lay all the problems at their door!

So what can we do about this?

1)    Make sure you or your partner aren’t making the problem worse. Do you have processing difficulties or relationship issues that are creating a spiral of behaviour within the family?

2)    Now that you know what triggers difficult behaviour, look to identify specific stressful stimuli. Avoid or reduce them wherever possible. If you need more details, Google SPD and APD, and you will find lists of triggers.

3)    Time is your friend. The more time your child gets to process, the less stressed they will be and the more able they are to deal with a situation. So, if they have auditory issues and you are in a noisy shopping complex and you are rushing them, then you’re either going to get a ‘blow up’ or they will withdraw and bottle that stress. It will come out at a later time.

4)    Growing up is also your friend – as a child gets older his brain matures and he is far more capable of dealing with the sensory information that he struggled with a few years earlier. This is usually seen from five to six years upwards. However, if stress levels for the child have been very high, then it will take further years of supportive work to see these improvements.

5)    Appropriate classical music can be very beneficial. This is a topic in itself, and is the basis of the Integrated Listening Systems, a home program for APD & SPD.

6)     Osteopathy and other hands on therapies. Cranial osteopathy is an excellent modality for treating the cranial bones and birth trauma. For most people birth is the most traumatic event that their body will encounter, and this will influence the cranial bones which can in turn influence the brain and its ability to process, especially under stress.

 

Dr. Jonathan Evans is an osteopathic doctor that specializes in children and children’s development. If you wish to read more of his articles on children and children’s health visit his website ionosteo.com and click on Well Child Clinic.

Please note: extreme cases of any of the conditions described should be diagnosed by a specialist.

Jonathan welcomes your comments and “will do his best” to reply to your questions!

(Photo by Luke Wisely on Flickr)

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103 Responses to “Recognizing Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD): Guest Post by Jonathan Evans”

  1. avatar Lisa Sunbury says:

    Jonathan (and Janet), Thank you for this. Important, long overdue, and particularly relevant to me right now.

  2. avatar Jill says:

    This article just introduced the idea of cranial osteopathy to me as it relates to my 6 y/o who has a low muscle tone and SPD. She had some birth trauma but I (or anyone else) have never really paid attention to that before. During birth (pushing) she was coming out with her head a little to the side and had minor scrapes on one side of her head – we think from my bone. She had major jaundice, low sucking reflex and developmental delays and her birth was never addressed as being an issue we could use therapy for. She is through speech therapy but still needs OT although most people don’t understand why she needs it as her challenges are subtle – but we see how they definitely affect her life.
    A therapist once told me that she cannot sense the end of her limbs and her place in space.
    Would cranial osteopathy be something that could help her? I have been googleing services in our area without much luck.

    • Hi Jill,

      sound like she did have a difficult birth and the low sucking reflex is often a sign of problems in the neck and cranial bones. I have treated a lots of babies and children with developmental delay so can definitely say that cranial osteopathy can help with this. But also keep going with the OT, as they will work well together.

      To find a cranial osteopath in the USA try http://www.cranialacademy.com/

      if you don’t find anyone try searching for a craniosacral therapist http://upledger.com/

      Who ever you find ask them if they treat a lot of children as not all cranial osteopaths do, if you aren’t quite sure what you are looking for read this http://ionosteo.com/osteopath-for-children/

      best regards Jonathan

  3. avatar Alexis says:

    Very interesting! In the new DSM, is SPD considered separate and distinct from ASD? Labels don’t matter to me as much as determining what a child’s needs are and how to meet them, but I’m curious.

    • Hi Alexis, Unfortunately SPD was not included in the new DSM (DSM 5)- this article from the SPD Foundation explains the background behind this.

      http://spdfoundation.net/sensory-processing-blog/2012/12/05/final-decision-for-dsm-v/

      Apparently the American Psychiatric Association decided instead to include abnormalities in sensory modulation as the 4th main criteria for Autism diagnosis. – That’s a quote from a Wiki page as I haven’t bothered to buy DSM 5!

      I find that the DSM is only really used to make an ‘official’ diagnosis which unfortunately is essential if you need to get access to public funding to help your child.

      best regards Jonathan

  4. avatar Jefra says:

    My four year old son with SPD is exactly that kid whose behavior is perfect when he’s away from home (like at preschool), but blows up at home. I’ve sensed his anxiety when we go to new places or are in new situations (won’t look at people, only talks in whispers if he talks at all, tries to hide himself in my legs, immediately starts asking for food or saying he’s hungry even if we’ve just eaten). He feels things deeply (like his dad), but doesn’t usually show it outwardly so it’s hard to read his cues sometimes. I’m not sure how to help him, any ideas? He does see an ABM practitioner, two sessions once a month.

    • HI Jefra,

      don’t know much about ABM – so can’t comment on that. I think the key will be to create more slack in the system, more slack = more capacity to process = less stress = better processing.

      So other than what we covered in the article specifically I would look to see if you can identify which situations when he is out that he doesn’t display that behaviour in. Then work out what enabled him to cope with that, lack of noise or other trigger, or did he feel safer more supported (eg with both mum & dad or with sibling, w/o sibling etc)

      Also if triggers are auditory have a look at http://integratedlistening.com/; look at the ilS pillow as he’s really too young for the rest of the stuff they offer. I haven’t used it myself but hear good things.

      I would also consider some manual therapies to create more ‘physical slack’ cranial osteopath, cranio sacral therapist and OT.

      best regards Jonathan

  5. avatar Jennifer says:

    Fabulous article, but I think its important to note that not all SPD children appear to have behavioural issues, but still may be dealing with hightened sensory awareness or sensitive processing.

    • Hi Jennifer,

      I would agree – and even as adults we have SPD moments. Ever been late for your flight at the airport, you rush in look up at the departure board for your gate and you are so stressed its a blur and you can’t even read it properly! Nothing wrong with your eyesight, it was fine that morning & it will be fine tomorrow its the stress affecting your ability to process the incoming sensory information

      best regards Jonathan

  6. avatar lee says:

    I am one of the parents who said my child would not do well, at 10 months old, with the recommendations of talking to a child as a individual. Its not to say I did not do it, but the results were not what you described, Janet. I am a very sensitive parent, intuitive and present. My son most likely would be diagnosed and I fairly well did when my son was young of SPD. But I also was mislabeled as a teen, and I think labels while they can give a scaffolding for treatment are isolating in their effectiveness and self fulfilling. My son is as you state, growing out of it. But the worse part of having a child who feels big, is overwhelmed by their capacity for absorbing the world, is how to model how to treat them to the rest of the world. They are seen as spoiled, unruly. My son gets compared to my daughter all the time about how she is so “good”. Its beyond hurtful, as they just can’t see the beautiful person he is beyond his dynamism. I feel in some ways I failed him as he had to endure a huge amount of stress from my ex trying to get custody and then being bounced from his house to mine, when he barely knew him. It impacted his ability to cope with stress dramatically. I feel my other kids also feel their brother gets so much attention because we need to negotiate about so much, talk. Our feelings over, etc. When they don’t need to. This is a very dense subject and I feel like you could do much more discussion of this, also the idea of the “spirited child”. And I am curious of what you know of indigo children and SPD.

    • avatar Brigitte says:

      Yes, I would also love to hear more about the “spirited child” or “highly sensitive child” or similar concepts. One of my children displays many of the traits associated with these terms. I fully believe that our RIE-style parenting is exactly what she needs, and is the reason she doesn’t display some of the more difficult traits of the “spirited child”. Nobody has ever called us indulgent parents to our faces, but I can see how it might look that way to someone accustomed to stricter discipline and parenting styles.

      • avatar Vanessa Thompson says:

        I would also consider sensory processing sensitivity as being an issue for children who react to sensory overloads. And it is not a disorder, but a normal trait in some 20% of the population. See Elaine Aron’s work.

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Lee! The situation with your son sounds challenging…but I think “model how to treat them to the rest of the world” is the best we can do. None of us can control what others think of us or our children, but we can model respect. And if people are at all open, that modeling can be very influential.

      Since you’ve brought it up, Lee, I’m curious as to why you say your baby would “not do well” being spoken to as an individual…and what negative results you thought came from speaking to him that way.

      I’m hoping Jonathan will weigh-in regarding Indigo children and SPD. My thought is that while the SPD label can help parents understand their children and respond to them more sensitively, I can’t really see how “Indigo” is a helpful label at all… I also appreciate your inclination not to mislabel because, as you say, labels can be “isolating in their effectiveness and self fulfilling.”

  7. avatar Kamie says:

    What a timely post! I appreciate this as I am just now dealing with some issues regarding my 4 year old. My son has always been very complex. He is hypersensitive to sound, although I don’t know if it crosses the threshold and is actually SPD. He has super high anxiety about anything he can’t control and/or doesn’t like. This anxiety manifests itself as rage and we deal with out of control meld downs several times a day on bad days. My question for Dr. Evans is, what sort of professional help should I seek? We took my son to a highly recommended (as in, recommended by several other psychologists) child psychologist last week after waiting three months for the appointment. As mentioned in your post, his theory was to solve the issues with cognitive behaviorism. My son isn’t trying to be defiant, so acting as though extended (as in several hours long) time-outs would help him process his anxiety didn’t make any sense to me. Now I am unsure how to find the professional help that we desperately need. Any advice would be very appreciated!

    • Hi Kamie,

      at the risk of upsetting some very highly qualified professionals I have to confess that I am not a big fan of psychologists for young children, for adults yes but for children I just have never seen positive results. Although of course I see the kids that aren’t doing well so maybe there are a load of kids with great results from psychologists its just that they are doing well so I don’t see them.

      For your boy, I would start with an auditory processing assessment as you have already identified this as an area, this will tell you whether he has APD, if it comes back as yes then look to the ils Pillow see previous reply for link, OT and cranial osteopathy – then as for the pyschology assess which of these works for him and which doesn’t – this will clue you in to the why behind what is going on, which will help you hone in on what he will need through the coming years

      best regards Jonathan.

    • avatar Emily says:

      We are working with an excellent therapist who explained to us much of what is in this article. Our daughter sounds a lot like your son. What she said was that because our daughter is basically stuck in “fight or flight” mode ESPECIALLY when she is raging/tantrumming that cognitive therapies won’t work. They rely on using skills that tap into parts of her brain she cannot access when she is behaving like that. First we need to deal with the SPD and the anxiety/trauma that causes. Then we can talk about more cognitive based strategies when appropriate.

  8. avatar Elise says:

    I totally disagree with ‘dad being the one to lay down the ale. In my house and every other one I know with kids the mum is always the bad guy!

    • Hi Elise,

      I would agree with you that most mums do the discipline – when it comes to inappropriate over discipline it is usually the male carer that is ‘butting heads’ especially if the child is a boy.

      best regards Jonathan.

  9. avatar Jess says:

    I’ve long thought my 4 yo son has APD, if not a more general SPD. I think I had APD (what, you mean not everyone experiences this?!), the “making noise” bullet point sounds just like him and the perfect-behavior-at-school is just like both of us.

    Does anyone else’s child say, when out of the home, “mum, I need to go to the toilet don’tturnonthehanddrier.” in less than a breath?

    • avatar Bel says:

      Mine covers his ears and says “too loud!” repeatedly whenever we’re in a public restroom. We try to keep paper napkins around so he can dry his hands if needed.

      The hand dryer is totally the worst part.

      • I can totally relate to the hand dryer thing – they’ve always been stressful for my two ASD/SPD kids, and now all our local shopping centres have installed super-fast VERY VERY loud ones. So stressful. I would almost rather my child just peed outside rather than go through the stress of having to go to the bathroom while someone is blasting the dryer.

  10. avatar Rebecca says:

    Thanks for the great post! Are there any “warning signs” that typically appear in infants? I am also wondering if a child with a hearing loss would exhibit similar behaviour. What are your thoughts?

    • Hi Rebecca,

      the 1st warning sign would be a very difficult birth that may have effected the cranial bones. Another early warning sign is a general inability of baby to settle and constant distress. Of course this could be reflux or another physical discomfort, so it is unexplained distress that you are looking for.

      Hearing loss is different to APD although in itself it will cause stress as you have lost the ability for pre warning of activity. (Think of when somebody comes up behind you without you hearing & you jump with surprise.) So the stress maybe causing the processing of the other senses to be poor, my advice would be to find someone local who specialises in auditory function so you know 100% what’s going on with the hearing

      best regards Jonathan.

  11. avatar Nadine says:

    Very insightful post, Thank you! It still leaves one major question for me to ask: where do I distinguish between High sensitivity and SPD? People have advised me to seek an SPD therapist. But my son is freaking out at any sort of doctor’s visit so I’d rather keep such appointments limited. (I know it’s not a doctor’s thing but it comes close enough for him). I presume he is HS and I do believe that our RIE parenting style is of great help and support for him. But if SPD therapy would benefit him in any way – I wouldn’t wanna stand in the way. But so far I am well confused. What could I really expect from it?

    • avatar Jefra says:

      Nadine,

      My husband and I spent a whole year deciding if our son needed to be “tested.” We knew he had his quirks and sensitivities, but I didn’t know what that threshold was between true SPD and a high sensitivity that he would grow out of or that we could help him with at home ourselves.

      I decided I would act like the “therapist” at home. I read everything I could on SPD, once we decided that was the general direction of his behaviors, and incorporated extra sensory experiences into his play. I saw immediate results. I also looked for ways that I could support him through his tantrums and rage episodes, which also helped. But then we realized with all of these extra things we were doing, I still felt like we weren’t meeting his needs and I felt like I needed more support and guidance coming from a professional. That is when we decided to have the OT do an evaluation with him, which then led to the SPD diagnosis.

      She recommended OT twice a week. I was uncomfortable with this and I felt like this particular OT was not the best fit for us as she was focusing on his deficits. Plus our insurance doesn’t cover anything sensory related. I looked elsewhere and through our RIE FB group I learned about the Anat Baniel Method (ABM) and read her book Kids Beyond Limits. I felt like I was finally finding answers and we went ahead and began working with an ABM practitioner and have seen great results thus far.

    • Hi Nadine,

      I’m not sure if we can distinguish between the 2 and it may not be of use to do so anyway. I think the key thing is to have someone give you some professional advice & help . The issue of him freaking out about seeing anyone is a difficult one & its sometimes hard to overcome – definitely you need a clinic that looks like a child care centre rather than a doctors surgery & a therapist that will make your child feel safe (with kids with anxiety I always treat with them on mum’s lap with toys on the bench to distract & I’ll be behind mum and reach around with my hand, sometimes even getting mum to place her hand on the child & i’ll put my hand on top of her – its about initating contact that is safe for the child & that is also of course also about not rushing the child).

      So if your child will leave the house & will go shopping with you etc then find a therapist that will be happy to work with your child in a manner that suits you & your child. If they won’t leave the house then try to sweet talk a therapist into coming to you – if you explain the situation they may do that if they love treating kids. They will probably only need to do this once then you will have built enough rapport to go to them.

      best of luck, Jonathan

  12. avatar Rick Ackerly says:

    This is an important article and has good advice in it. It implies but stops short of stating the most important concept–the dysfunctionality of labeling and diagnosing at all. labeling a set of behaviors as SPD or ADD or anything is only a place holder and starting point at best.
    The most important concept in the article is that we ALL have “processing difficulties.” Each of us has a unique way of receiving, chunking, processing, and responding to incoming data. My way of doing this will for certain run afoul of someone else’s way of doing this. Gender stereotyping or racial profiling are only special cases of Labeling the other person. All labeling is fundamentally disrespectful in that it detracts from the other person’s fundamental uniqueness and their fundamental drive to change and adapt to the environment.
    Most importantly it can distract us from our number one relationship responsibility–to continue to change our minds and through trial, error and learning come up with better and better ways of getting our relationships the way we want them.
    THe suggestions are a good start and point to the nearly infinite ways we can improve our relationships with our children if we keep trying to learn from them and from our interactions.

    • Hi Rick,

      Overall I would agree with you but sometimes parents do find comfort in labels & it can be a lifeline when they are drowning. So although labeling can be disrespectful – a therapist taking away a parent’s opportunity to use a label can also be disrespectful – after all the parents are ones in the front line 24 x 7.

      best regards Jonathan.

  13. avatar Arsy says:

    Thank you for writing such a thoughtful and informative post. In your practice have you seen any improvements in symptoms with dietary changes, such as removing dairy and gluten from the diet? I know that most of the research in this area is done around autism, such as the work by Dr. Martha Herbert at Harvard.

    I recently came across a blog post from a parent that wrote about how dietary changes really helped her child with SPD. I am personally very interested in how diet impacts emotions/behavior in both adults and children and I was just curious if you had seen anything around this in your practice.

    • Hi Arsy,

      definitely – diet is hugely important & can definitely help. Its a very big topic – which I’m not an expert in but I will mention this. The fight flight response includes the following – stressful stimuli = sympathetic nervous system activation = diversion of blood to arms legs & head in order to be able to run away from the tiger etc. The body does this by contraction of the muscles in the arteries supplying the digestive system (stomach, bowels etc).

      So in summary prolonged stress = less blood to the digestive system = poorer digestion & elimination. Poorer digestion can lead to poor blood sugar balance as well as other problems such as leaky gut, all of which can effect behaviour.

      So most effective way of treatment is to reduce the stress (via treating cause of SPD or reducing triggers) to get better gut function & also to loop back the other way by looking at diet & reducing the load of a poor functioning gut.

      Hope that helps,

      best regards Jonathan

      So

      • avatar Arsy says:

        That was a fantastic explanation! It makes a lot of sense! Thank you!

  14. avatar Rebecca says:

    My son will be 4 years old next week, and he was diagnosed with SPD when he was 2. I did not realize until I read this that he probably has Auditory issues as well, but the issue of primary concern is in regard to food texture. To this day, he can only eat pureed foods (mostly Stage 2 baby food). If he were to attempt to try lumpy, dry, textured foods, he would gag and vomit. He’s old enough now to know what will happen (vomiting), so he’s reluctant to try anything other than what he knows (Stage 2 foods, pudding, soft serve vanilla ice cream).
    If anyone can tell me anything that might help me get him past this and onto “adult” food, I would deeply appreciate it. Buying baby food in the quantity that his body needs is definitely becoming expensive.

    • Hi Rebecca,

      sound pretty hard going. I don’t have any magic wands unfortunately. Can I ask have you had any investigations to see if there is problem with the stomach, lower esophageal sphincter,esophagus or stomach. If you have the all clear it may be worth looking at some manual therapy to address the diaphragm which has to contract strongly in the vomit reflex, an osteopath or a physiotherpaist or a chiro could address this.

      Secondly the vomitting reflex is controlled by part of the brain that sits below the 4th ventricle in the brain there is cranial technique that can influence this area.

      I can’t say whether treatment of these areas will work without examining your child, but its just an avenue that maybe worth exploring

      best regards Jonathan

      • avatar Rebecca says:

        Thank you for your response. We have taken our son to two different doctors. They have both looked in his mouth and seen no irregularities, but as of yet, he has received no further examination in regard to his esophagus or stomach. His current doctor has sent information to Vanderbilt and we are eagerly awaiting a response. We will certainly discuss your suggestions with them. Thank you again. If you think of anything else, please let me know.

        • avatar Kate says:

          Has he been seen by a feeding therapist? There should be a federally mandated CPSE or CSE in your area that evaluates children and may provide free therapy if he qualifies.
          Have you got a hand blender that you can use to puree your own food at the table rather than buying packaged baby foods? That could save you a lot and give him different tastes before his body catches up.

          • avatar Meghan says:

            My son will be 2 next month, and we have similar food issues. He was diagnosed with reflux very young, and recently, dysphagia. He has seen an OT and SLP, and has another food therapy session this week. Each session seems to stress him out. He is also with my mom all day while I work. He behaves “perfectly” for her, but will not eat most of the day. He is usually very hungry when we get home, and very cranky/fussy. If I could stay home and help him daily, I would love to. I am an art teacher full-time, and work with ages 4-12, including special needs. I wish I could work with him, but by no means am I a specialist. I am feeling so lost as he is losing weight. It affects his sleep (he’s never slept through the night, unless he is sick). He had a somewhat difficult birth (water broke, was put on oxytocin, in labor 27 hours, then a c-section)… Advice is so appreciated! Thank you.

  15. avatar Amanda says:

    Hi, I have a 7 and a half year old daughter who shows traits of ‘perfect behaviour’ at school,to other family members, at my work my colleagues tell me she is so lovely!! But when on my own or with Papa her behaviour is very testing! We also have a 4 year old who she loves dearly but will and can argue like cat and dog(I know this is normal). She was born at 31 wks, weighing 3lbs and stayed in hospital for 2 months. I’m pulling my hair out between me and my partner who are quite firm and don’t take a lot of nonsense. I work within childcare from birth to five and have done for 22 years however my experience with over 5’s is limited. She is beginning to ‘bare face lie’ be rude, mean act ‘spoilt’ and much more. So, is this normal 7year old behaviour?? If it is then I will plod onwards and upwards!! Any advice appreciated!!

    • Hi Amanda,

      1st off 7’s not too late & you haven’t lost her yet, but time is ticking! I’d be tempted to explore that prem birth, often the bonding from baby to mum is effected if baby is taken away from mum (usually have to at 31 weeks as they need that specialist care). We’ve learnt from this which is why we now give baby to mum after a c section to have a chance to bond before mum’s taken off to be stitched up.

      So if your little one was in hospital for 2 months probably in a specialist crib being fed with a naso gastric tube with limited opportunity for hugs from you and dad then her first experiences of hotel earth are going to be very poor.

      Now if this happens it often leads to insecurity in that love bond (her to you not the other way round) & this will cause anxiety, not expressed outside too insecure & anxious to do this but at home where she feels most secure with her family. Probably added to this is anger as she doesn’t understand why she feels the way she does about the world.

      i’ve seen this lots with kids – explore the idea & see if it resonates as this may not be what’s happening – its difficult to diagnose without meeting the child.

      If it does resonate then sorry to bang the same drum but I’ve seen this change with cranial treatment. I suspect some of the chiro’s might be able to help – not a chiro so that’s why I’m not as definite.

      The other thing to do of course is to sit down & explain about birth & what went on & how that may effect how she feels. get it all out in the open.

      Finally, I might be disappearing up my own backside with these fancy ideas – she may just be being bullied at school & the anger at home is a way of expressing it!

      hope that gives you a few avenues to explore

      best wishes Jonathan

  16. SPD didn’t make sense for me until I learned about it from a child’s point of view. And it wasn’t until I read the book Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight that I recognized sensory defensiveness in myself and my extended family. Thanks for this very useful post. Sharing!

  17. avatar Jaime says:

    Thanks for posting. Very informative. My 4 year old has SPD and is not autistic. We knew from a very early age something was different about him. At 2 it beame pretty apparent that he had significant issues with sound and smell as well as the need for constant motion. I have commented before on how essential swaddles and slings as well as other props like swings were to helping him regulate his sensory input. He was quite unhappy unless he was moving until he could move himself. I have read some material here that seems disapproving of the use of props yet i am wondering where you stand on these devices for children with these types of special needs?

    • Hi Jaime,

      1st off please read all of this reply as the 1st paragraph is to balance the rest of the reply!

      I think the issue with props is that they usually make life easier for the parents at the cost of the child’s development. As they do make life easier for parents there is often a reliance on them that is hard to let go of.

      Now if we take your boy, it sounds like the props are not only making life easier for you but they are also allowing improved development or at the very least preventing a deterioration in development.

      It sounds like he’s got tactile sensory processing problems – hence the success of swaddling. It also sounds like he’s got problems with what is often called the 6th sense – the vestibular system (i.e. the balance system). This is very common in SPD although can be just mild – my own boy is like this, in his case he dislikes swings, all funfair rides etc but loves self induced spins.

      Also continual self movement especially rythmic predictable movement will help crowd out any other sensations that maybe causing problems. (its why it helps to rub your knee vigourously when you have whacked it)

      So although I haven’t met your son it sounds like you should continue doing what you’re doing. As he gets older this will either give him the slack to be able to regulate his sensations & do well in school etc or you will see that the traction you have gained starts to slip.

      If this is or has happened think of it like treading water in the ocean after a while you are going to tire and your heads bobs under, then you come up for air tread water harder to keep going & so on … eventually you will go under. So if this is happening use this opportunity whilst you are still afloat to get some more help. Definitely look at cranial osteopathy or a similar hands on therapy for the cranium and also check out the ils system (link in previous post).

      Your window is closing as we want to make as much change as we can before he hits school age so do act now, OT is definitely an area to look at. He’s entering the age where school is approaching, so sitting still, holding a pen – these are all difficult for a child with vestibular problems. OT’s specialise in this field and I think an OT would be the first person to get on board followed by a cranial osteopath.

      best of luck, Jonathan

  18. avatar Tawnya says:

    My 6 year old son exhibits ALL of the adaptation behaviors you describe. Additionally, my husband (who was medicated for adhd most of his childhood) readily admits he likely has processing disorders. However, when I read descriptions of the symptoms of apd and spd (I googled as you suggested) I don’t feel such a sense of recognition of what is going on with my child. Am I not understanding the disorders? My son appears to “hear” things properly and comprehend directions and such–yet I know something is going on because, like I mentioned, he exhibits ALL of the adaptive behaviors you mention. I have wondered if he could be diagnosed ODD. I am not interested in pursuing that type of diagnosis and labeling him, but I deeply desire to understand and help him. He is the third of four brothers. His personality and behavior is very different from the others. I see that their resentment of him is growing and I also feel that I can’t ALWAYS facilitate for him to keep him from going over the edge…not to mention keep my husband from butting heads with him constantly. How do you suggest I explore this further?

    • Hi Tawnya,

      You may be understanding things fine, he simply may not have spd and maybe there’s some other stresses in his life that means he’s not coping well.

      Obviously identifying these stressors are the key. If you don’t think your getting somewhere then definitely get some outside help whether its OT, osteopath, chiro a naturopath for diet etc.

      Seeing someone should mean a full history from birth to now is taken & this sometimes gives clues that to you maybe insignificant but to an experienced practitioner maybe the vital bit of info that sheds light on whats going on.

      best regards Jonathan

  19. avatar amanda says:

    Hi,

    What a useful article. I have twins with Fragile x. One has a tendency to come through the door from school and blow whistles or bang an exercise ball with drum sticks….And I’m just now (thanks to you article) recognizing that as ‘leave me alone, I’m processing what happened today’. Sometimes I interrupt his drumming with questions about school (before he forgets),

    would you suggest I leave him alone for a while? now that I’ve recognized it, how can I support him?

    Thnaks

  20. Hi Amanda,

    took me a long time to learn the lesson of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix’ so I think you’re already there with that. So yes I’d be tempted to leave him to it, observe & keep applying those great RIE principles.

    A good parent wants to know what their kids are doing at school & if they are happy but the way a child’s brain works is that they won’t forget & when they are in the right space something you say or they see will trigger a memory & out will come some info about school from yesterday or last week. Just think of when they repeat something you said about aunty Nelly when she visits even though you said it 2 months ago. Whether its a parrot or a child its all in there!

    best wishes Jonathan.

  21. avatar Michelle says:

    This is for Rebecca, whose son is having gagging/vomiting and food texture problems.

    When I read your post, it was almost freaky how much you could have been me a few years ago. I don’t know where you are located, but run – don’t walk! – to his doctor and insist on a work up. Among other things, our son had contracted h pylori, and until that was treated, no other therapy would work. He did end up in feeding therapy and OT because of SPD but still has a LOT of food issues. in general he feels neutral (at best) about eating. if we had caught on sooner (he was 3 1/2) we could have saved us and him a whole lotta trouble. I don’t know what’s going on with your son but I sure encourage medical and therapeutic intervention sooner rather than later.

  22. Hi, thanks for this timely post, I am currently transitioning my two oldest children (7 and 5) into homeschooling because of their ASD/SPD difficulties… at times I wonder whether I am making life almost too easy for them now that we are at home – although we still go out often, and I still have to take them to the supermarket or mall etc, sometimes I worry that I am creating more and more cushions around them to protect them from anything that might make them unhappy. Because mental health is a big issue for me, I am extremely sensitive to their mental health, but it has been pointed out to me that they may never get used to the ‘real world’ if I protect them from so much life. I’m definitely not an over-parenting type and am happy to let them play by themselves and choose their own activities/clothes etc but I just don’t want them to be miserable, lonely and confused, which is what happened when they were at school. What do you think?

    • Hi Rachel,

      I think it may be true that it will be harder for them to get used to the ‘real word’ but it may still be better than getting ‘broken’ en-route to the real world.

      When we are making these big decisions on schooling & other aspects of parenting I think it is also important to look at our own weaknesses & assess whether they are effecting our judgement. Is it our problem & we are projecting this onto our children or is truly a problem that my child is struggling with. This is very difficult to do in lots of areas but particularly when it comes to issues such as anxiety. A parent that is anxious will usually pass on that anxiety to their child. Sorry not trying to lay the guilt path here ( we also give them all our good stuff!)So in that case yes the child does have the problem, but not only should we help & acknowledge their problem but also work on our own problem as this was at least partly caused their problem & it would be one of the most effective ways to help them.

      Its a complex interaction & I know nothing about your family dynamic so what i said may not be relevant but I mentioned it in case it is of use

      best wishes Jonathan.

  23. avatar Jessica says:

    Hi Jonathan, I am concerned my 20 month old might have hyposensitivity. He is very social and wants to constantly hug or touch his friends. He usually ends up hurting his friends by his tight hugs, and it is sad to see his friends run away from him because they don’t want him to hug them. Should I try to tell him we only hug our family members or could he benefit from professional help?

  24. avatar SR says:

    Thanks for this article. I’ve recently begun to notice my 1-year-old son’s hypersensitivity to noise and am curious if you could comment. He often cries out if I or another family member shouts ( not necessarily in anger, but something like normal shouting when someone is in another room.) He also sometimes does this when the voice is raised only a bit above average. In both instances he will sometimes run to hide in my lap. He is also very distressed with the loud motor of my mothers vitamix blender, but that’s not a sound he hears daily at home. We live in a big, loud city — he was born at home in an apartment adjacent to a fire station, as has slept through sirens since birth. I am just starting to worry about the noise sensitivity and if it is something we should have addressed professionally. thank you.

  25. avatar AOB says:

    My 4 year old displays the reverse of the model behavior…she has almost daily meltdowns at school…and only occasionally at home. Even though she received OT at school, the school personnel keeps trying to treat her reactions as behavioral. I’m just worried this can counteract any progress the occupational therapist is doing.

  26. avatar DM says:

    Thanks very much, Janet and Jonathan, for directly tackling the challenges of special-needs parenting. While I am improving at empathizing with sensory processing issues, I still struggle with responding to behaviors that look like ADHD. In some cases I can identify external stimuli that seem to be acting as triggers, but in other cases, the distractibility seems to be internally driven. At those times my son (6yo) seems to be lost in his own world, and getting his attention is a real challenge. Especially if his internal world is more fun and interesting than the external world (where adults are trying to get him to recognize limits and think about other people), he has very little incentive to pull out of that world and pay attention to others. On some level he “knows” that he’s not following expected rules, but in the moment he doesn’t care about them; his inner world is much too engaging.

    I could really use some tips for working with these situations, since I think this may be my biggest parenting difficulty.

  27. avatar Lily says:

    One thing that frustrates me about “SPD” is that it is NOT strengths-based. I don’t consider someone having certain preferences to their environmental stimuli as a disorder. I do not like the tv turned up loud and my husband can’t concentrate when there is a lot of physical activity or visual stimuli in the room. Does this mean we have a disorder? Children with so-called “SPD” receive and interpret stimuli differently, but that does not mean it is wrong. If everyone had the same sensory preferences and acted the same, what a boring world this would be! So instead of calling it a sensory processing disorder, can we just label it as sensory preferences?

    • avatar Allie says:

      I believe the distinguishing line between a “difference” or a “disorder” is the level that it negatively affects one’s ability to function day to day. When a person is not able to function then it is obviously not just a preference for things to be a certain way. Calling (as you put it) “so called SPD” a preference it assumes one would also have the ability to recognize their difficulties and control their response to overwhelming stimulus/environments (which can be learned with age and help as stated in the article above, but is not as simple as making a choice to do so because it is simply a preference). I hope you understand that you and your husbands preferences in no way compare to someone who struggles with actual Sensory Processing Disorder….

  28. avatar Julia Janzen says:

    Thank you for the article. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around all of this. Our 3 1/2 year olds preschool teacher suggested to us that she believes our child is experiencing SPD. I guess what I’m struggling with is understanding what’s the difference between an age appropriate misbehavior tantrum or one that is due to SPD? Also our 7 yr old daughter has exhibited multiple signs now looking back. She’s highly sensitive to sounds, refuses to try new foods. I always thought she was overly sensitive and shy. What tips the scale to a SPD diagnosis?

  29. avatar Katherine says:

    I am beginning to think that my son (almost 3) has SPD. Since he turned 1 he’s been increasingly ‘difficult’. He often vomits – especially in public places when eating and seems to have a strong gag reflex. He hates having a hair in his mouth and will choke on chips for example. We have had increasing toddler melt-downs – now several a day and he will be cruel to his sister – biting and hitting her and not sharing well. He prefers to play alone – won’t sit and sing with the other children at play group but isn’t aggressive with other children and does show empathy and understanding at times. He HATES the hoover, hand dryer in public loos and is scared of public toilets changing mats – frightened of falling off etc… I hadn’t connected all this until I read articles on SPD and I really think it may be the cause of all this. When he was born (a fast delivery and a big baby at 9lbs 10ozs he was very jittery and had lots of tests done. I thought he just had a strong Moro reflex as it seemed to calm down after a week or so and apart from a slightly raised Sodium level the tests all came back normal. Does jittering fit with SPD? He also still doesn’t sleep through the night and needs bottles of milk to settle and is often in a ‘bad’ mood! Any help would be much appreciated as I’m at a loss as to how to ‘function’ normally – ie. go out, work, send him to nursery, etc… because of his behaviour. Thank you!

  30. avatar Shenna Buist says:

    The school started telling me he had spd a couple years ago. My Dr in our small town told me at 5 he was to young to diagnose. I have all so hard on other sites there is not diagnosis for it. Is this true??? If not where should I take him to a dr. Or psychologist?

  31. avatar sarah says:

    My 7 year old has been diagnosed with adhd and a mood disorder, odd and severe tantrum disorder. Everything is a fight. Bathing, cleaning up things he got out, teeth brushing, his baby brother, school ect. We give him lots of time to make a decisionand give him choices. But he refuses to chose one. Just refuses. He has multiple melt downs a day. Trashing the room, hitting, throwing self on the floor ect. I’m very worried as he gets older his violence will get worse and teach our 1 year old that it is acceptable behavior. Any advise welcome!!

  32. avatar Karin says:

    Wow, thanks Jonathan and Janet, this was the post I was unknowingly wishing for.

    I have two daughters of 8 and 2. I really enjoy Janets blog for the youngest. She’s strong willed, but very cute. And since I use what I learned about RIE from Janets blog we have a very loving relationship even though she’s in in her ‘terrible two’s’.

    With my oldest I’ve far more difficulty and RIE is not always an option, just because I’m a human with limits… She is diagnosed with Aspergers last August. That was a relief, we finally understand her better and are able to make her surroundings work for her, while making her understand her surroundings (school, social interactions, getting dressed in the morning etc. etc. etc.). Well, since she’s a GIRL with Apergers, it’s hard to notice she has issues. The past few weeks she had a number of ‘attacks’ of being ‘overstimulated’ (I don’t know if that’s the right word for it, in my language it is…) During such an event everything’s to much: sound, touch, feelings, everything. She’s hidden under a blanket, shaking, moaning, crying (she normally never cries).

    The thing is: I know what to do with almost every part of her autism (as you said, it’s in the family, I’ve unknowingly grown up with it.) but I can’t possibly feel/see or otherwise sense it coming, such an ‘overstimulated attack’. Since it takes her about two full days to recover from it, I really try my best to know her limitations. But in some periods (2 days up to 2 months) she seems to be able to handle everything, including lots of sugar, lack of sleep and lots of activities. Other periods everything could be ‘to much’, but there’s now way to tell if it is, we could be in a period where she’s able to handle everything for that matter…

    How can I spot when she’s almost ‘full’? What are the signs, for she’s not able to feel them herself, we’ve talked about that with her.

    Thanks so much!

  33. avatar Ali Z says:

    This is another message for Rebecca who posted above. Your son sounds very similar to how our son was for his first 2 years with regards to gagging and vomiting.

    I had to fight incredibly hard to get our GP to refer him to a paediatrician who then did a barium swallow x-ray which showed he had a heart defect called a vascular ring. This was acting like an elastic band and was compressing his oesophagus and trachea so he couldn’t eat regular food and had constant chest infections….he had surgery to correct this 6 months ago and he is doing so well now, honestly he’s like a different child. No more vomiting or gagging and he can eat everything now!

    This may not be what your son has but I would definitely insist on further investigations in your situation. Good luck xx

  34. avatar Chelsea says:

    I know this article was a little while ago but I believe my 3 month old son has SPD, my older brother (as my mum has since learned) has it, my baby brother now 3 is SPD at it’s extreme and my mum has tendsncies re ASD. We are noticing his reaction to loud noises is increasing even though the noise isn’t (my 3 year old is just as loud as day one), he is perfect at night, and we notice light appears to be a trigger too, he has to be on his tummy, cannot be sat alone ( car seats, prams etc) and needs my hand across his face to settle otherwise he will scream all day long. Living in country I don’t know how to go about finding out more, and I don’t trust the local docs. I’m looking for advice what to do next.

  35. avatar Heather Joy says:

    What would be your take on a child who has challenging behaviors outside of the home (hitting, scratching, biting other children of all ages and adults, and intense and violent tantrums) but behaves “perfectly” when he is at home with his parents? This question is in regards to a 7-year-old boy whom I babysit for regularly. His parents say he does not act out at home, but has had very intense tantrums at school, at one of their adult’s friends homes, and once in my own home. My gut reaction to this is that he may not feel safe expressing his feelings in his own home, but I am interested to hear others’ opinions.

    • avatar janet says:

      I agree with this, Heather: “My gut reaction to this is that he may not feel safe expressing his feelings in his own home…”

  36. avatar Jennifer Simmons says:

    My daughter, recently turned one, is having sensory issues with eating (won’t eat solids, has just in the last week started licking/sucking on them a little) and with people other than my husband or me touching her. She also freaks out if we try to give her a bath, but is fine in the shower, and doesn’t like to be wiped with anything wet but seems to tolerate dry things ok. We saw a therapist last week and they didn’t come out and say SPD, but said they suspect sensory related problems. She also has a really hard time sleeping and gets absolutely hysterical at times and the usual rocking/nursing doesn’t work. With my son we did sleep “training” of going back in to check on him frequently, but I am afraid it would make things worse with her, as her hysterics make his crying look like nothing. How would you handle sleep with sensory issues?

  37. avatar Jose Carlos says:

    So if your child will leave the house & will go shopping with you etc then find a therapist that will be happy to work with your child in a manner that suits you & your child.

  38. avatar Debbie says:

    I have just found this article. Thank you so much. I am printing it to read and re-read and get my husband to read. We have 7 children, 6 diagnosed with ASD (Asperger’s) two of them have SPD also, we are interested to see what happens with our new baby – currently 6 months old and developing beautifully. I was just about in tears reading your experience with the toothbrushing. Nobody could ever understand if they have never been through this. Thank you once again.

  39. avatar Valerie says:

    Grest article. Any insight on how to help a 4 year old with SPD with a move? (In fact 2 moves within a few months of each other). We have stories, books and have talked about the move for awhile now – but I’m concerned about the 2nd move now that have just completed the first. she is just getting settled, has her routine and then we are going to pick up and move again. Looking for any help we can give her. Thank you.

  40. avatar Bethany says:

    Can an older child develop sensory issues? Say around 9 or 10? My daughter seems to be increasingly sensitive to tactile, auditory and sometimes oral stimuli, buy if it were truly spd wouldn’t these signs have been evident from a much younger age?

  41. avatar Kirsty says:

    Thanks for the article. My two year old son has ASD and SPD. His world is so terrifying he literally has a meltdown if we go anywhere a away from home. He is on the go and runs everywhere often smashing into surfaces as the pressure calms him. We have found the therapeutic music does seem to calm him a little, however it may just be the weight of the headphones!

  42. avatar Angela Adams says:

    Is aggression also linked to SPD? My foster son hits, pushs, throws things, and bites if he is not happy about a change/transition or doesn’t get his way. He also grunts and runs away. This happens rarely at home but consistently at preschool and day care when he’s with other kids. He’s almost 5 and I am so worried about his future. We had to pull him out of a prek already and he’s having daily meltdowns in his new one. We are at our wits end. Thank you.

  43. avatar Jennifer says:

    Hello, I was wondering if there was any possibilty of speaking to someone directly in regards to my 5 year old daughter. She has SPD and there over abundance of changes over the years have made things much more severe then I may have initially realized..

  44. avatar Leasa says:

    I’m struggling with a 4.5 yr old who seems to be 99% sensory seeking. When we go out he seeks out everyone for hugs, kisses, talking. Strangers! He is constantly making noise, crashing. He has no imagination play (he is already considered language disorder with possible social pragmatic communication disorder). He struggles with properly reading emotion changes, yet he is sensitive to others crying. He can never sit still unless he has visual stimulation. My problem is, I can’t exhaust his sensory need! I try to give him all the input possible and it never seems like enough. I’m struggling to find reading material as most addresses the sensory sensitive children. What can I do?? Thanks!

  45. avatar Avantika says:

    Dear Janet

    I know this post was a long time ago but I’m still hoping you can give me some answers as I’ve been feeling really helpless with the issues that my 4 year old son has been facing. I think he has SPD but no one in India, where we stay, has even heard of the term.

    My son is constantly biting his nails, biting his own hand, biting his lips and holding/tugging my hair. It’s distressing to see him like this. His teachers at school and grandparents/relatives at home are constantly telling him off. And I am close to tears as he holds my hair all night due to which I cannot sleep.

    I would really really appreciate some guidance. There is no one else around me who understands this. How can I help my child?

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Avantika,

      Have you consulted your child’s doctor or a child therapist? Also, I would not let him hold your hair and I’m wondering how you are handling this and other boundaries with him. He might need you to be more clear with him.

  46. avatar Meredith says:

    This article is so helpful. We are just realizing our 3-year-old has SPD, and so do we (both my partner & I). It explains so much about everything!! Right now our biggest challenge is what you described in this article — a lot of tension in the family because it is hard to meet each of our needs and find harmony, especially during stressful times.

    My biggest question is: how should SPD adults seek help? It doesn’t look like a common thing to seek treatment for. I would appreciate any suggestions!

    • avatar Bill says:

      I have it and I am just arranging my life according to my limitations. Being aware that I will l react in retain circumstances helps.

  47. avatar Karen says:

    Please help me understand the auditory piece of this puzzle more.

    My 4yo is usually happy and a good kid. I am not sure if his sensitivities are normal for his age, or something more that needs addressing. He’s highly sensitive to sounds & fearful of loud noises. Public bathrooms are a challenge especially with automatic flushers and hand dryers.
    I suspect he has also some very mild sensory issues. For example, he asks me to cut tags off clothes, washes his hands if they get anything sticky on them even in the middle of dinner, lots of food texture issues.

    I don’t want to label any of this if it’s normal. Mostly just the auditory piece concerns me. Just now he heard the beep of the dishwasher and came from his bedroom crying “what’s that sound?”

    His language is good though. So, do I get him evaluated? What can I do about the auditory stress as well?

    And I’m very curious about the birth aspect, he was vacuumed out without my consent. Could this have effected the cranial structure and inner ear? How?

  48. avatar Maree says:

    Hi Janet. I’m an early childhood teacher and have been reading your blogs since my children were born. They have really speak to me about what feels the right and natural way to raise children.
    I just wanted to let you know that instead of saying ‘special needs children’ it should be ‘children with special needs’. It essentially is the same thing, but puts the child first as their own individual, then the diagnosis. It carries a whole different weight.
    I love your work and thank you!

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Maree! Thank you so much for that feedback. I’ve changed the wording in my opening paragraphs. I had actually learned my mistake since I originally posted this article, but didn’t think to check back on my phrasing in this article… So I can’t thank you enough for your help!

  49. avatar Bill says:

    I believe that both my daughter and I have SPD. Oh and also my mother. And probably her father.

  50. avatar Stephanie says:

    Hi Jonathan (and Janet),

    Thank you for this post.

    I have long suspected SPD in my now 4.5 year old but I seem to have hit a wall after an ASD evaluation. The psych team agreed he is not on the spectrum but was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and was suggested behavioral therapy was the way to go. But in my humble opinion exposure therapy (their suggestion) will do little good because if his nervous system is hypersensitive to xyz, exposure will not decrease that, am I right? So other than privately seeking occupational therapy I don’t know where else to go.

    We see a DO for osteopathic manipulation (which I guess is what you refer to as cranial osteopathy?) due to his sleep issues (wakes up nightly and a crying/really, really big meltdown ensues) but lately it’s not helping as much as it did. Could the sleeping issues be due to his SPD? If so, how can that be addressed. Thank you for your time.

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