Recognizing the signs of Sensory Processing Disorder – from meltdowns to picky eating
Loud. Bright. Stinky. Getting instant information from the senses is part of everyday life. But for children who cannot correctly process this information, simple tasks can become overwhelming.
October is National Sensory Awareness Month. The Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Foundation wants parents to know the Red Flags of SPD:
• Overly sensitive to touch, noises, smells, or movement
• Floppy or stiff body, clumsy, poor motor skills or handwriting
• Difficulty dressing, eating, sleeping, or toilet training
• Frequent or lengthy temper tantrums
• Easily distracted, fidgety, withdrawn, or aggressive
• Craves movement
• Easily overwhelmed
SPD affects 5-10% of all children, yet often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Most children with SPD are just as intelligent as their peers, and many are intellectually gifted. Not all children are affected the same way. One child with SPD may over-respond to sensation, and find clothing and certain foods unbearable. Another might under-respond and show no reaction to pain, while yet another might have coordination problems.
The STAR Center in the Denver Tech Center is the premier clinic for assessment and treatment of SPD, attracting families from around the world. Treatment typically involves occupational therapy, which enables children to participate in the normal activities of childhood, such as playing with friends, enjoying school, eating, dressing, and sleeping. Depending on the child’s symptoms, feeding programs or listening therapy might also be recommended.
To kick off National Sensory Awareness Month events in Denver, the STAR Center celebrated the grand opening of its new sensory playground with a concert and activities for children. The unique playground provides a fun environment for children to improve balance, muscle strength, coordination and social skills.
The next event, “For the Love of Children Near and Far – Gala and Auction” will be held on October 19 at Glenmoor Country Club. For tickets, visit SPDFoundation.net/gala.
Ellie was diagnosed with SPD when she was four. Her mother, Tiffany, was encouraged to read Sensational Kids, by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, founder of SPD Foundation and STAR Center, which led the family to STAR.
“Prior to coming to STAR, we lived our lives on eggshells,” said Tiffany. “We never knew when or what was going to make Ellie meltdown. From the time she was born, if she was awake, she was crying. She was sent to the director’s office at school every day because of meltdowns in class, sometimes several times a day, and each one could last up to an hour. We fought with her at every mealtime. She would not eat or sit at the dinner table.”
What is life like after the family completed four weeks of intensive treatment for SPD? “Our life has changed pretty dramatically,” said Tiffany. “We have learned to look for cues from Ellie and educated Ellie’s teachers on SPD. We are seeing a huge decrease in meltdowns at home and at school. Our relationships within the family are improving as well. Now that my husband and I understand what is going on, we stopped blaming each other for the way Ellie acts. Overall, we feel better educated to keep her environment as supportive as possible so she can succeed.”
To learn more about SPD and STAR Center, visit SPDNow.org or call 303-221-STAR (7827).