October is Sensory Processing Disorder awareness month.

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Sensory Processing disorder or, SPD, is living every day with a bombardment of unfiltered information going into your brain.

Imagine when you walk into a busy room to a person with SPD it is like walking into a night club or a theme park on a busy bank holiday. It’s crowded, noisy, flashing lights and has your senses heightened to the max!

Why does a person feel like this? The reason a person is feeling or reacting this way is due to the way that their brain and nervous system process or integrate stimulus. This is a neurophysiological condition which causes sensory input – either from the environment or from the persons body, which is detected or interpreted in error hence these responses are then observed.

For children with SPD, when processing the feelings of hot or cold, tired, hungry, lights and sound can be extremely challenging and overwhelming, which can even raise irregular responses may prove a health risk. For instance they may not be able to register the temperature in a typical way that will allows them to dress appropriately for the sake of their health and safety. A person with SPD may not be able to feel pain like another individual so may not feel a broken bone, however a small cut will become a huge issue. A parents challenge is to learn the signals and signs of their child, are they hot, cold, hurt hungry in pain etc.

SPD also affects an individuals behaviour, mood and emotional state. They may be angry, anxious, scared or tired. What would it be like to live in a hypo or hyper sensitive state, would you feel drained? Would you feel like your emotions are ever at ease?

So how can we help? We can help an individual with SPD by creating a chill out zone for them, somewhere comfortable that they can just go and relax. Its their space nobody can bother them. It may include a Weighted Blanket, or Fleece Blankets, Cuddly Toys, Pillows, Light toys. Take a look on a sensory website for sensory toys that will suit your sensory seeker.

You can help by cutting out labels in clothes if they are a cause of upset. These to an individual with SPD feel like razor blades to somebody who doesnt have SPD. You can be helping them choose the clothes to suit them, if they feel comfortable does it matter that they live in tracksuits or leggings and never wear jeans or dresses.

You can look at the individuals diet. Maybe they are struggling with food that touches, maybe the food is all the same colour scheme. Ensure that they are having a multi vitamin, speak to a GP about their eating. There are lots of fun plates, fun ways to make food look good for children. Generally children with SPD do not want to starve they just struggle with taste and texture. Ask them to help you to cook, prepare and do tasting sessions.

There is so much more to SPD, but this is a spectrum and your sensory seeker is different to my sensory seeker. Remember we have to pick our battles and they are living with this. We have to get into their world too.

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