What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
A child with autism may or may not also have a sensory processing disorder (SPD), as well, one which is a separate diagnosis in itself. Formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction", SPD refers to the lack of proper motor and behavioral responses when faced with sensory stimulation. This could include any of the five senses. Technically, many autistic children will be diagnosed with both SPD and/or ADD at some point in their lives as well.
Consider this case- Mark is a lovely high-functioning autistic child, with a sweet temper and kind attitude. He is not known for screaming, crying, kicking, biting, etc. On the contrary, adults constantly praise his behavior and encourage him to keep it up. Yet when a plane flies too close, a car screeches as it rounds the corner, someone scratches a chalkboard, or his mother decided to use the vacuum, Mark is in tears. He is on the floor, with hands over his ears, screaming for it all to stop. What is slightly annoying for the average person is extremely painful for him alone. If you try to touch him at this point, he will kick, bite scream louder, and cry even more, for the pain is not going away and what he needs is not a hug but someone to stop the thing causing him this agony.-
Many an individual on the spectrum faces hypersensitivity towards visual, auditory, tactile, or any other form of stimuli, which could potentially lead to an overload, causing severe meltdowns which may be rather difficult to calm down efficiently. Furthermore, certain tools, such as weighted blankets, might become necessary in provided the needed stimulation that helps organize the information that's scrambling around in the brain.
“Most people do not know how to support these kids because they do not fall into a traditional clinical group,” said Elysa Marco, MD, who led the study along with postdoctoral fellow Julia Owen, PhD. Marco is a cognitive and behavioral child neurologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. The funny part is that what might be intolerable today, could be sought out tomorrow. This is what makes the disorder so confusing. According to the University of California San Francisco campus, abnormalities in the brain's white matter are found in SPD patients, also tracing the disorder to the effect of genetics. Interesting enough, both autism and SPD are pretty much proven to have a strong genetic influence.
Hints your child may have SPD
- May cover ears when there are loud sounds, such as vaccuums, hair dryers, cake mixers, fireworks, etc
- May scream or feel intense pain if there is contact with loud sounds
- May have issues with food textures
- May gag when trying new foods
- May not let anyone touch him or her
- May not be able to get enough hugs, particularly the strong bear hugs
- May show little to no reaction to stimulation, whether to hot or cold
- May absolutely overreact to the simplest of stimuli
- May have rather poor coordination and motor skills
- May be an excessive risk-taker
- May find clothing tags and other textured fabric to be impossible to bear
- May be sensitive to light
- May find it difficult to have hair brushed or cut, particularly due to tugs on scalp
Up to 1 in every 6 children is believed to have some variation of SPD. Between 5 and 16 percent of It only affects people through a single sense. This means that it might be hypersensitivity to auditory stimuli, to tastes, tactile, visual, or smell, but it cannot have 2 or more or all.
Growing up with SPD
Adults who have spent a lifetime battling the sensations brought about by the simplest of stimuli also must counter depression, underachievement, social isolation, and any other secondary effects. Misdiagnosis as a child is a major problem, often having the symptoms classified under attention-deficit disorder. As such, those with SPD grow up without proper understanding of themselves or treatments that could have saved them much in terms of hassles and pain.