Thursday, October 9, 2008

What is SPD and why does it matter?

I am definitely no expert on Sensory Disorder unless living with it for 5 years makes one an expert. People ask me all the time what it is and how it is different from autism and ADHD. It is difficult to answer because SPD affects children (and adults) in different ways. My son and nephew both have the disorder, but it looks very different on each of them. They have some symptoms in common, but not others.

Basically, as the name suggests a person sufferening from SPD does not process sensory information correctly. So, for example, one child who has a tag on his shirt could actually feel acute pain instead of the normal irritation "typical" children would feel. Here is a quote from the SPD Foundation website that sums it up well:

"Sensory processing (sometimes called "sensory integration" or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or 'sensory integration.'

"Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as 'sensory integration dysfunction') is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively. "

OK, so now that we have established what SPD is, let's talk about why it matters for people to know about this. Again, let me quote the SPD Foundation: "Research by the SPD Foundation indicates that 1 in every 20 children experiences symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder that are significant enough to affect their ability to participate fully in everyday life. Symptoms of SPD, like those of most disorders, occur within a broad spectrum of severity. While most of us have occasional difficulties processing sensory information, for children and adults with SPD, these difficulties are chronic, and they disrupt everyday life."

One in 20 kids!! And according to some researchers, this is a very conservative number. But, one in 20 kids means that there could be at least one child in each school classroom who suffers from SPD. Also, some researchers suggest that many children who are diagnosed with ADHD actually have SPD instead.

While some of you may never have a child with this disorder, you might still come into contact with one who does. If you work with children at church, in your career, volunteer at school, etc. you will probably meet a kid with SPD.

I feel very strongly about educating people about this disorder. Danny was working with 3 different therapists when he was 18 months and none of them knew much at all about SPD. It was actually my sister who educated me and encouraged me to have him tested. I don't know what would have happened had I not been informed about this disorder. People need to know about this so they can help kids. This is a treatable disorder.
The button above was created by Elizabeth 's husband. Feel free to post it on your blogs to get the word out!


hellokittiemama said...

1 in 20 Kids???

THat is even more than I thought.

Definitely going to blog on this, this month!

Amy Jane said...

Good post, Patty. I think it's wonderful that you've devoted this month to educating people about SPD. Can't wait to see you Saturday!!! I'll call you tomorrow when we're on the way or after we get there.

kia (good enough mama) said...

Thanks, Patty. Thanks so much for doing your part. I should do the same. I promise, I'll get to it!! :)

bernthis said...

My hat is off to you, really.

Quirky Mom said...

Wow, 1 in 20 kids? I did not know that. Great post!

Jaimie said...

Hello :)

I came across your blog by accident...and I just wanted to say that I am nabbing your button to use on my own blog.

I am an adult living with undiagnosed SPD - at some point this month (or several points) I will be blogging a bit more about my experiences with SPD ( - blogged about it here)