Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder

So I have a little one (3yrs) suffering from Sensory Processing Disorder (also called Sensory Integration Disorder). It is an interesting problem. His sensory system doesn’t work properly so he misperceives stimulus: light, sound, touch. It varies from person to person, but some of the symptoms are classic:

* won’t wear socks
* very picky eater
* won’t take a bath–water is always “too hot” “too cold” or “too wet”
* cries when his baby sister touches him (brushes his leg)
* extremely ticklish but doesn’t always want to be tickled (or wrestled)
* picky about clothes–colors, textures, tags, length, tightness/looseness, etc
* hates paste
* hates when clothes are wet, dirty
* doesn’t like to be hugged, especially by non-caregivers
* has had trouble stopping thumb-sucking (or pacifier)
* extreme anxiety during toilet-training
* anxiety about wet/dirty diapers
* general anxiety about sensations: toys are “too hard”, couches are “too soft”, fans or music are “too loud”, and steps are “too high”

My little boy also has a couple distinctives maybe you recognize too:

* can’t stand being naked
* won’t take shoes off after they’ve been on
* rubbing or “picky fingers”, especially when touching others
* rubs his own wounds or bites, even making them bleed
* raises his arms or waves them about when someone approaches him, when someone is doing something he doesn’t like, or generally when excited or concerned (almost like a protective stance against his body)
* holds his crayons too lightly
* speaks too softly; has trouble raising voice to call out
* fascinated by lights (including flashlights, candles, etc)
* fascinated by colors and shapes
* repetitive scripts during play (out of stubborness, not developmental problems)
* very attached to food/eating (even imaginary food!)
* underresponsive to shots–mostly hates being held
* oversensitive to little falls or hurts

The list could go on and on. Mostly, he responds to things that have to do with clothes, food, and being touched… much more so, and more intensely than, other children his age. And the key thing is, he keeps getting more sensitive as time goes on, instead of less. Lots of kids, for example, are picky eaters, especially during the toddler years. But they should get less picky, say around 4 years old, instead of less. And lots of kids have favorite clothes or like learning their colors, but they should get desensitized to this as they age, not moreso–and not in that analytical way where they scrutinize every thread or tag that could be out of place and bothering them.

My little one breaks down–dissolves into tears–if I suggest that he should put on pants when he’s wearing shorts, or vice-versa. It isn’t a control or personality thing, nor can he accurately feel hot and cold so he could logically be convinced. He is actually bothered by the changing sensation of changing clothes, or doesn’t want the sensory input at that time.

At these times, I usually try to count the cost: is it necessary (for health’s sake) that he change? If it is, I just be strong and make him upset. You really have to be! You have to convince yourself that you are the parent and you know what’s best. Do what is ultimately in his interest, and try to conform his sensory standard to yours as much as possible. I don’t think it will ultimately help to tailor to his sensory standard (which is off) unless it is clearly painful, literally, for him to conform.

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