Sensory Processing Disorder in Children
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition where the nervous system and brain have trouble processing and acting upon information received through the senses. SPD can run from mild to severe, can be over-sensitive (hyper), under-sensitive (hypo), or both, and can affect one or more senses.
As children develop, there are eight senses necessary for processing information, the five we generally think of—hearing, touch, taste, smell, and sight—plus three more. These other senses are vestibular (the sense of balance and spatial orientation), proprioception (muscle and joint movement and sense of self), and interoception (the feeling of what goes on inside the body). Children with SPD are out of sync with their environment and may have anxious behaviors or tantrums to avoid certain noises, smells, or textures. For a child with SPD, routine activities like brushing their teeth, hearing a vacuum, or even eating food can be an unbearable experience.
A child exhibiting signs of SPD may have a physical “disorder” of the sensory pathways of the brain, or those signs may be indicative of other developmental or behavioral disorders such as autism, attention-deficit disorder (ADD), or developmental coordination disorders. A child’s pediatrician may recommend a trial period of occupational therapy and additional testing to make a more conclusive diagnosis.
Epidemic Answers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping parents understand why their children are chronically ill and what can be done to help them, offers additional perspectives on SPD and related developmental disorders for parents to consider when selecting a course of treatment.
Epidemic Answers reports that 30-50% of children with autism, ADD/ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and SPD also have PANS PANDAS, but not all pediatricians and psychiatrists are aware of this connection. PANDAS are neuropsychiatric disorders that are typically brought on by strep throat, even when a child does not develop full-blown strep. PANS is a larger umbrella of neuropsychiatric disorders that includes not only PANDAS, but also diagnoses such as Lyme disease, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). Further, SPD and related disorders may also fall under an even broader group called autoimmune encephalitis, a disorder in which the immune system attacks the brain, impairing function.
Epidemic Answers offers many suggestions on how to help a child recover from SPD, regardless of its source, by rebalancing the body and bringing it back to health. These suggestions run the gamut from the basics like sleep, exercise, and water consumption to dietary changes and changes to a child’s environment. They offer suggestions on laboratory tests that may be requested from the pediatrician and the use of herbs and supplements. In addition, there are recommendations on how other health and well-being practitioners and specialists can play a part in helping a child recover from SPD.
Epidemic Answers. (n.d.) What is sensory processing disorder? https://epidemicanswers.org/symptoms_and_diagnoses/sensory-processing-disorder/?