How to Raise a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder?

Raising a child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is like a roller coaster train that you have been strapped to and you can't really get off. Just as your car is maybe about to stop and you are hoping to take a break, there is another crisis and you are going downhill again, hopefully taking a deep breath.

For the Sensory Processing Disorder kid nothing is ever right. You will probably start with a fussy baby who likes to be held all the time or never wants to be touched. Your hard to comfort baby will turn into a strange toddler who might never want to touch sand, will love to pinch your arms, holds on his pacifier for dear life, freaks out at the grocery store for no obvious reason. Or what if you enter the doctor's office and your kid suddenly lies down on the floor and starts chewing on a toy in the waiting room. Eventually you come to the conclusion that a child should not be so difficult to raise.

I know you when I see you in the park, for you are one of these moms, who does looks like will benefit a shower, whose eyes nervously glance around the playground for future trouble in case you will have to step in and help your child's play.

You might be looking at other moms who chatter happily nearby, and even though you are still one of them, you feel vaguely distant. Your pediatrician and friends might tell you that this is a normal behavior which will pass with time. It won't, Sensory Processing Disorder is a brain dysfunction which causes inefficient neurological processing of the external and internal senses. It will not go away, it cannot be cured, but if treated it will make your child be able to function smoothly in daily life.

There is a lot of chaos in the SPD child, this chaos will inevitably transfer to you and to other siblings and family members. One minute I may see my kids peacefully playing together, I sneak out into the living room holding onto my freshly made coffee cup, as soon as I sit down I hear my daughter screaming as my sensory seeking son throws her beloved tea-set cups around screaming happily at the loud noise they are make as they bounce off the tile floor.

The next minute he starts jumping on the living room couches, I know there is no point in telling him there is no jumping on the couches, he simply does not process the movement like we do, so I need to re-direct him to the mini trampoline in the toy room. By the time we are done jumping, my coffee is already cold, not to worry, in three hours will be 6 o'clock - my wine hour.

One of the first and best things we did was to have Pediatric Occupational Therapist evaluate our child. We found a Pediatric OT that specializes with sensory issues. The sooner your kid starts Occupational Therapy, the better for him, you and the whole family, as it will take at least 3 months of therapy to see any results.

The frequency of the therapy depends on how much your kid needs, some of them are OK with once a week, but more intense cases may need up to 3 times a week. Don't get discouraged if you child does not want to go into therapy, she/he will get used to it with time and it will get better.

A good therapist will sit down with you for 5-10 min. after each session and explain you what they did and why. After one and a half years of occupational therapy my son is not cured of his sensory processing disorder, he is, however, able to function in daily life much smoother, at times even he is normal.

He is still an intense child with unusually high activity level who loves to chew on stuff and feels somewhat uncomfortable in crowded, loud places. But, at 4 1/2 he can sit still and put a 100 piece puzzle together, sings songs without freaking out at the tunes, will initiate an age appropriate play with appropriate choices without dumping all the toys out of the bin.

Another thing you can do is to educate yourself about Sensory Processing Disorder by reading books like "The Out-of-Sync Child" by C.S. Kranowitz. This is probably the best book out there that describes the subject in easily understandable language for parents and caregivers. I and my husband also learned to spot when our son is having a regular tantrum versus when he feels sensory challenged in certain situations or if something is too overwhelming for him. For instance we found that he loves to play chase, hide and seek and other high activity level games, however at times it might get too much for him and he has hard times stopping, so we re-direct him into a different activity. Once you know what your child cannot handle, try not to expose him/her to that too much. Take one step at a time. If certain situations are over- stimulating, like a crowded birthday party or a grocery store , then don't spend more than 30 min. there. If your child has a craving for certain sensation you need to provide the appropriate input. For instance my son has high activity level, so we have provided him with a trampoline or we play chase together several times a day. As your child grows and his brain matures, he/she will learn to function in once challenging situations. Occupational therapy will help tremendously with this as well.

Finding time for yourself is of crucial importance not only for the parents of Sensory Processing children but for any parents out there. Every day I feel like I am about to miss the last train, and another one is not coming, I have added rituals in my life. I wake up 20 min. earlier every morning and slowly sip on freshly made coffee in a beautiful cup. I go outside for a walk 2 times a week by myself, breath deeply and feel very thankful. The corner of my bedroom is my sanctuary, I have a night table, basket of books, candle and a nice chair. This is my kids-free zone, I spend some time there whenever I can and read stuff that has nothing to do with kids, family or the house but my own individual interests. I live in the present situation, I try to live in the NOW - the present moment, and this defines my relationship to life, in other words it is only now that I get to chase my kids to put there shoes on, it is only now that they will look at me and tell me :"Look, Mommy, I did it!"

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Comments 11 comments

Baileybear 6 years ago

this is very timely and ties in nicely with my hubs on Asperger's - I will link

kaltopsyd profile image

kaltopsyd 6 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

Wow, I've near heard of SPD. I'm glad to hear that your son is making some improvements though. I wish you and your family all the best. Stay strong. :)

This was a good Hub read, by the way. Thanks for sharing.

misstcousins 6 years ago from Kings Lynn, Norfolk, UK

Thank you for this article, I am studying social science with psychology in October and I've never heard of this condition before and I think I would like to research more and find out whether or not this is part of the course sometime in the future.

Thanks again!

Baileybear 6 years ago

My son and I both have Asperger's and sensory issues are a common co-morbid condition. I've only known about Asperger's for 2 years. Has been very interesting understanding our quirks. My son has major tantrums being overwhelmed by sensory issues - won't let a facecloth touch his face for example and used to scream at the sound of hand-driers. Mistcousins - you may encounter Asperger's in your psychology class - Tony Attwood is a psychologist that is a world expert on Asperger's - he mentions sensory issues and other common co-morbid conditions like anxiety and depression (which I also suffer from) - I have been writing my experiences

LaMamaLoli profile image

LaMamaLoli 6 years ago from London

Thank you for sharing this. We have just discovered that our eight year old has a problem with sensory processing functions, I always had a niggle that something wasn't quite right but could never verbalise it. I think because he is not an extreme case. However, now, we are trying to learn as much as possible to help him. Something you said which resonated with me, was you said you are able to tell what is a "tantrum" and what is him feeling sensory challenged. I don't know how to do this, but feel I should. Is it something you learn by experience? or are there signs to look for that tell you? i feel a bit out of my depth!

Angela_1973 profile image

Angela_1973 6 years ago Author

Dear LaMamaLoli,

Some of it I learned by experience, some of it I read about. There is a lot out there that people will try to sell you and convince you that you should have. The Out of Sync child is one of the best books that explains how to deal with it, for example my son is sensitive to loud noises, when he was little I would get very frustrated with him at the grocery store if he fusses too much, but later I figured that when they announce things on the speaker that is bothering him. Also he was a bit destructive and would throw his toys around, the OT has made an amazing difference, he is almost out if the SPD.

You should always look for what can be bothering you child, is the environment too load, is there too much going on around him? My advice is to find a good Occupational therapist and read the Out of sync child, don't spend you money on anything else. That is why I don't promote anything else in my article, I have lived with SPD for 4 years. Email me if you have more questions

Best Regards!

LaMamaLoli profile image

LaMamaLoli 6 years ago from London

Thank-you, I will read the book. He is seeing an OT so am hoping that will help me too. I will let you know how I get on.

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago

Excellent hub. This information is very useful to a lot of people. This issue also comes up a lot in adoption circles, I'm not sure why it's so prevalent there, but many adoptive parents face this with their child.

SmartAndFun profile image

SmartAndFun 6 years ago from Texas

Oh wow... you just started following me after you read my hub about Demand Studios, so I went to check out your profile and found this hub of yours. This is something else we have in common. Like LaMamaLoli's child, my child does not have a severe case but boy-oh-boy it is obvious to me that she has it. She does love her trampoline, LOL. The Out Of Sync Child was a godsend to me. Great hub, and glad we found each other.

ErinPittman profile image

ErinPittman 5 years ago

Wow. I can relate as the mom of a 4.5 year old with SPD. Nicely done.

Juice 3 years ago

My son was diagnosed with SPD about 5 months ago. This article is the best description of my day to day life that I have read... and I have read a LOT. It's really nice to know that other people are out there going through the same thing. It's even better to know that my child will eventually figure out how to function normally with this condition. My son is responding extremely well to his OT therapy. I am so thankful that we on the road to fixing his issues!

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