My world is sensational, thanks to a 7-year-old boy named Landon. Some day’s loud noises are our friend and then the next day they aren’t. On most days sunlight is the enemy, food is surely our foe and bedtime is never quick or painless. Anxiety leads to sadness and sadness leads to frustration and frustration leads to anger. You see, my Landon has Sensory Processing Disorder, better known as SPD. Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. A. Jean Ayres, PhD said it best when she referred to SPD as a neurological “traffic jam” in the brain.
SPD can affect our senses such as vision, audition, tactile, olfactory, taste, proprioception and the vestibular system. It can affect one sense or multiple senses at once. All of Landon’s senses are affected by SPD. While some days only certain things act as a trigger for him, he does have days where he has a full blown “sensory day”. Call it mother’s intuition, but I can tell if he is going to have a “sensory day” within 1 hour of him being awake.
During Landon’s test for developmental delays and learning disabilities, it was discovered that Landon was in fact gifted. While some people are not convinced that there is a link between gifted minds and SPD, there is more research being complied on this topic everyday to say otherwise. Paula Jarrad, MS, OTR conducted a research study in hopes to bring awareness to the prevalence of SPD in gifted children.
“The ‘double-edged sword’ of giftedness often bestows, among other features, a global heightened awareness to sensory stimulation, an endowment of amplified mental processing speed and attention capacity, and unusual challenges with frustration, pain, noise, and emotional hypersensitivity,” Jarrard learned from her review. “As many as one-third of gifted children may exhibit sensory processing disorder features, significantly impacting quality of life.”
I find her results to be very accurate in how it depicts life with my sensational kid.
Preliminary research states that SPD is often inherited, which means it is coded into the child’s genetic makeup. However, as in many developmental and behavioral disorders, genetic factors and environmental factors can affect the child. Only with more research will doctors be able to identify the role that each factor plays. While navigating this path with Landon, I uncovered that I also have SPD. At first, I was sad to think I might have passed this onto him, but Landon is who he was meant to be, and he, nor I will ever apologize for being “sensational”.
In order to better understand if a child is having sensory issues, try using the “Sensory Checklist” here. This checklist is usually broken into age categories. After reading the entire checklist, you might think that most kids exhibit these characteristics and it is not a big deal. However, it is when the symptoms of these characteristics become severe enough to affect normal functioning and disrupt everyday life that it becomes a challenge. Behavioral therapy, play therapy and social skills groups are just some of the ways you can treat SPD. You must find the right balance that works for you and your sensational kid.
My child has been labeled fussy as baby, grouchy as a toddler and now anxious as a 7 year old. I tear these labels off. Labels are for jars, not for my son. Having SPD doesn’t define us. Instead it shapes us. We might move to the right while others move left. But in the end, we are all on the same journey. We want to learn, grow, socialize, love and explore just like the rest of you. We just have a harder time navigating through it all. We do things a little differently, as does everyone in some way, shape or form. And last time I checked, being different makes us unique. The world is better place when we are free to be who we were meant to be.
A fully edited and more descriptive version of this story has been published in RI Parent Magazine, October issue. It was chosen as the cover story and features my little boy!
Namaste ~ Joy