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How You Might Be Triggering Your Kid's Sensory Processing Disorder Without Knowing It

For some parents, the simple act of running a vacuum cleaner or serving new food for dinner can cause their children to have an absolute meltdown. And these aren't necessarily bad kids; they may simply have sensory processing disorder (SPD) — a condition that makes it difficult for them to correctly interpret sensory input. If that's the case, it's smart to know how you might be triggering your kid's sensory processing disorder without knowing it. Because something as simple as the scent of laundry detergent may be sending your kid into fits.  

Although you're probably well aware of your kid's biggest triggers, there may be some minor, everyday things that also cause problems. From raucous birthday parties to the feel of sock seams, plenty of simple things may feel overwhelming to your kid. That said, you make a judgement call on how to deal with these triggers — some can be avoided, but others may need to be faced head-on. Cutting fingernails, for instance, has to happen sooner or later, even if it freaks out your kiddo. Of course, you don't have to take on these issues alone, and input from your pediatrician or an occupational therapist who specializes in SPD could be tremendously helpful. In the meantime, familiarize yourself with these everyday things that could feel insurmountable to your kid.

1. Cutting Their Fingernails

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For adults, manicures can feel pretty great. For kids with SPD, however, it may be a nightmare. According to Sensory Processing Disorder.com, children who are hypersensitive may be exceptionally bothered by the everyday task of cutting fingernails. Because trims can't be avoided forever, Sensory Processing Disorder.com further advises parents to consider using baby clippers, or even cutting your kid's nails while he is sleeping.

2. Getting Them Dressed

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Clothing issues are another common problems for children with SPD. As explained in Understood.org, anything from itchy tags to sock seams may upset your kid. In this case, you may consider cutting out clothing tags or allowing your kid to wear socks inside-out.

3. Trying New Foods

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Granted, most kids are picky eaters at least some of the time. But for some kids, the textures or tastes of certain foods can feel unbearable, according to Food & Nutrition Magazine. As further explained by the magazine, getting your kids to participate in meal prep and serving small, bite-sized pieces may help make mealtime more manageable.

4. Encouraging Messy Play

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Sure, most kids adore making mud pies or squishing handfuls of Play-Doh. But such messy play may be upsetting to children who have sensory issues, as explained by Sensory Processing Made Simple. Working with an occupational therapist may be one way to get your kid more accustomed to these unique textures.

5. Going Barefoot

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Running around barefoot at the beach may be a source of absolute joy for many kids, but the gritty sand may cause your SPD kid to have a meltdown. According to neuropsychologist Teresa Bailey, children with sensory processing issues may outright refuse to walk barefoot on sand or grass. This is one trigger you can easily avoid, or you can gradually help your kid grow accustomed to these sensations.

6. Using Scented Detergent

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It's important to remember that SPD does not just affect the sense of touch. Even certain scents can freak out kids. In fact, scented laundry detergent smells may overwhelm some children with SPD, according to ADDitude. Fortunately, plenty of unscented detergents are also available.

7. Utilizing Camera Flashes

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Some kids are triggered by bright lights. For these kids, camera flashes are very bothersome, as explained by Brain Balance Achievement Centers. Disabling the flash on your camera may be quite a kindness to your child.

8. Hugging Them

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For parents, this may be the most heartbreaking aspect of the condition. But many kids with SPD strongly dislike being touched or even hugged, according to What to Expect. If this is the case, you can work with your pediatrician or an occupational therapist to help establish healthy boundaries for your kid.

9. Running Household Appliances

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For you, the sound of a running dishwasher may just be background noise. But to your kid with SPD, it may sound deafening. As noted by Brain Balance Achievement Centers, kids with SPD may be exceptionally sensitive to household sounds such as vacuum cleaners or flushing toilets. Because you can't control all sounds of the outside world, some kids with SPD may be soothed by noise-blocking headphones, as further explained by Brain Balance Achievement Centers.

10. Attending Birthday Parties

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The noise, socialization, and excitement that makes birthday parties so fun for most kids may feel unbearable to children with SPD. And according to Our Everyday Life, events like birthday parties may cause a kid with SPD to act out or shut down. However, you can help your kid prepare for the event by explaining what activities will happen at the party, and providing him with the option of stepping out for a few minutes to regroup, as noted by North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

11. Having Busy Mornings

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Sure, many people rush around in a busy blur each morning, but this may only stress out your kid. The typical morning rush of activity can trigger a kid with SPD, as noted in Brain Balance Achievement Centers. Planning out a deliberate routine may help your kid have a calmer start to his days.