Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Well SPD (formerly called Sensory Integration Disorder) is a condition where the brain and nervous system have trouble processing or integrating stimulus making it difficult to interact with your daily environment.
SPD works by disrupting how the brain — the top of the central nervous system — takes in, organises, and uses the messages received through our body’s receptors.
The symptoms of SPD, like Autism, exist on a spectrum, so a sufferer might experience any of the above but in varying degrees.
We take in sensory information through our eyes, ears, muscles, joints, skin and inner ears, and we use those sensations – we integrate them, modulate them, analyse them and interpret them — for immediate and appropriate everyday functioning.
It is a challenging neurological condition associated with inefficient processing of sensory information, which I’ll be exploring and explaining more about in this blog post.
If you are an adult with SPD then you may exhibit the following signs:
Feeling that a shade is pulled over the outside world
Experiencing muted sights, sounds, and touch
Frequent feelings of sensory overload
SPD can complicate everything from getting dressed to eating to grooming.
The following are some common triggers that can cause discomfort:
Tight clothes or coarse fabric
Loud noises such as fireworks or thunder
Bright lights like camera flashes, sunshine, or strobes
Strong odours including perfume or scented detergent
So when a person experiences too much sensory stimulation, this in turn then causes their central nervous system to be come overwhelmed and unable to process everything. It can be best described by the following quote.
It’s like a physiological ‘Traffic Jam’ in your central nervous system and the sensory overstimulation causes a physiological response and sometimes even a sensory meltdown.
When people with sensory processing dysfunction experience sensory overstimulation, they are unable to regulate the sensory inputs from their environment and their bodies perceive these inputs as threats.
Here then are three strategies on how to deal with a sensory overload.
STRATEGIES FOR HOW TO DEAL WITH SENSORY OVERLOAD
1) CREATING ROUTINES FOR STABILITY
Build upon routines and address changes within familiar routines or expectations before they happen.
2) IDENTIFY, DISCUSS, AND WORK ON POTENTIAL SENSORY TRIGGERS IN ADVANCE
Identify potential sensory triggers and discuss expectations for those situations as well as solutions that might be possible. For example, a noisy, crowded shopping mall could be a trigger – expectations could revolve around the time spent there, problem-solving could include negotiating stores differently or discussing an exit-plan.
3) CREATE A TOOLKIT
Prepare for a potentially difficult experience beforehand as much as possible.
Discussing an appropriate way to leave the situation/environment should it become too much
Problem-solve potential triggers
If you experience these or similar symptoms for SPD, my advice is to consult a doctor or mental-health professional so that you can be given a formal assessment.
Carry on the Conversation
What are your thoughts? Have you got any strategies in place in dealing with a sensory overload?
Let me know in the comments below.
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Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.