Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a disorder of the sensory systems. Basically, things don't feel right. SPD can effect any or all of the sensory systems. These include the systems that govern vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell, balance and motor function. SPD can be a symptom of a larger disorder, such as autism, or it can stand alone. Children with SPD might be sensory seeking (crashing into things and people) or sensory avoidant (avoiding touch).
In toddlers, SPD is a raw deal. Imagine trying to explore the world while everything is too loud, too bright, too smelly, and too scratchy. It's hard and you can see why toddlers with SPD could struggle a bit with behavior. It's all just too much.
How do you tell if your toddler has SPD? Here are some signs:
•Difficulty with nursing. Was breastfeeding hard for your child?
•Trouble with being touched or hugged. Does your toddler arch away or become a wet noodle when you want a hug? Are hugs ok as long as your toddler is initiating them? Is the slightest touch or jostle viewed as an assault?
•Hates tags. Does your toddler have trouble with tags in clothes or seams on socks? Are you spending way too long dealing with these types of issues?
•Trouble eating. Does your toddler have a very limited diet? Does he gag with certain textures of foods? Are you spending extra time managing your child's meals? Do you make frequent stops at fast foods restaurants because that's all he'll eat?
•Terrible sleeper. Does your toddler have unusual sleep patterns like waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep? Is falling asleep hard?
•Difficulty calming down. Does your toddler throw really intense tantrums? Can he recover easily from a tantrum? Does he escalate quickly?
•Trouble with bright light. Does bright light really bother your child? When riding in the car, does your child require a shade or sunglasses to tolerate the sunlight streaming in?
•Hates loud noises. Does your toddler become easily overwhelmed in loud places? Is he fearful of loud noises like a toilet flushing or a hand dryer in a public restroom?
•Rough and doesn't notice pain. Does your toddler frequently engage in rough play? Does he love to crash into others and tackle friends to the ground? Does he seem to not notice when he is hurt or bleeding?
•Bull in a china shop. Do you frequently describe your toddler as clumsy or a "bull in a china shop"?
•Constant movement. Is your toddler in constant motion? Have doctors or friends insinuated that he is more active than normal?
•Are there other developmental concerns such as delayed speech, fine motor delays or trouble with adaptive skills such as potty training and self-feeding?
If you answered "yes" to more than a few of these questions, your child may need to be evaluated for SPD. Typically, an occupational therapist is the right person to evaluate your child. Your pediatrician should be able to provide you with a list of good OTs.
For your child's sake, don't wait! It is hard enough being a toddler ( and parenting a toddler) with SPD. Your child deserves to get the help that he needs in the form of occupational/sensory integration therapy.
Links to more information:
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