A lot of kids, dare I say all of them at one point or another, have freaked out about the texture of a particular food, the itchiness of a sweater, or the volume of the radio when their parents' favorite '90s jam comes on. But, if you have noticed that happens regularly, and is almost always accompanied by epic meltdowns, it may be a sign your kid has overlooked sensory processing disorder (SPD).
According to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder, sensory processing disorder exists when your child's sensory signals are not detected, or are not organized into appropriate motor or behavioral responses.In other words, children with sensory processing disorder may have a much greater or much lower response to stimuli as their non-SPD peers because their brain has trouble receiving and interpreting sensory information. A lot of kids who are the autism spectrum also have sensory processing disorder, but there are also many children who do not fall within the spectrum that struggle with sensory issues.
Kids with undiagnosed sensory processing disorder may be labeled "picky" or "difficult" or are thought to have behavioral problems. They are are often punished or ridiculed when what they need is patience, understanding, and occupational therapy. Here are some red flags that your child may have an overlooked case of sensory processing disorder.
1. They Are Over-Responsiveness
Kids with sensory processing disorders may be hypersensitive to sensory stimuli that is typically unoffensive to others. Brain Balance Achievement Centers notes the following examples of hypersensitivity: fear of sudden, high-pitched or loud noises, distracted by background noises, fearful of surprise touch, and more.
2. They Are Under-Responsiveness
When a child with sensory processing disorder has hyposensitivity, he or she may seek out stimuli, according to Brain Balance Achievement Centers. Some example include a constant need to touch people or textures, clumsy and uncoordinated movements, and the inability to sit still.
3. They Have A Fight Or Flight Response
Have you noticed your child suddenly running away from something that makes him uncomfortable? Kids with sensory processing disorder often have, what the Child Mind Institute called, a "neurological panic response" to everyday sensations, causing them to flee or become aggressive when in sensory overload. These children may run toward something that will calm them, such as a teacher, without noticing that they are pushing or shoving other kids along the way, according to Understood.
4. They Suffer Dramatic Mood Swings Or Meltdowns
Kids with sensory processing disorders will often have radical, inexplicable shifts in behavior, according to the Child Mind Institute. This is usually in reaction to a change in environment. Brain Balance Achievement Centers noted that sensory meltdowns are not the same as temper tantrums. Sensory sensitivity to noise, lights, crowds, or touch can cause those who have sensory processing disorder to become frightened or confused. Parents of children with undiagnosed sensory processing disorder may misinterpret these signs of sensory overload as behavior problems.
5. They Have Co-Occurring Disorders
Because the majority of people on the autism spectrum also have significant sensory issues, the Child Mind Institute noted that sensory processing problems are now considered a symptom of autism. However it's important to note that most children with sensory issues are not on the spectrum. Kids who have been diagnose with ADHD, OCD and developmental delays may have sensory processing disorder, as well. In some cases, kids with sensory processing disorder are misdiagnosed - and inappropriately medicated - for ADHD, according to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder.