Sensory Processing Disorder can have a very big impact on everyday family life.
1. My child is fine outside but uncontrollable inside the house!
A lot of children are aware of location and what is expected of them there. For e.g. they might really hold it together at school, where they know their freedom is limited and may not manifest many of their sensory integration problems at school. They will, however, fall apart when they get home. They know they’re in a safe environment and the impact and stress of their day may come out.
2. My child hates to sit for dinner!
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) causes adjustment issues among children and hence alters their response to even simple tasks. For example, they may have difficulties sitting quietly to eat at dinner. Children with SPD have a very difficult time sitting still, often due to low muscle tone and also needing to move to provide sensory input to their brain. Also, they may have clumsiness in using utensils, or picking up their cups. So just getting through meal time can be very stressful for most parents who feel like their child is beyond the age where she should be spilling things. Children with SPD may also be very sensitive to taste and smells and have a very limited range of what they’ll eat. This becomes another stress point, particularly when you go to relatives’ homes or a restaurant.
3. Even bathing, dressing and other simple everyday activities can be a nightmare!
These may seem simple to you. But for a child with SPD, taking bathing involves touch, smell, temperature and balance. He may be very bothered by taking his clothes off, touching water, smell of the soap, closing his eyes to wash face, tilting his head backward for washing hair because he feels very insecure in space.
4. He prefers to alone!
Because the sensory world does not make sense to them, children with SPD would much prefer an environment that’s very predictable and the same from day to day. People (including family) and the environment often tend to change rapidly e.g. our voices, body odor, and facial expressions. When suddenly the environment changes, the child becomes flustered, frustrated and upset.
5. He won’t hug me!
When a child pulls away from being touched, hugged or cuddled, it can be very emotionally difficult for parents. For the child, what counts here is the feel of your clothes, smell of your hair, pressure of your hug and your voice. If any of these do not appeal to him and you insist on hugging or holding him, then he might cry and even hit you to get away from the bad sensory experience which for a parent is a bad emotional experience.
Sensory Processing Disorder is something real for your child!
Because of his difficulties in processing sensory information, the world may be a frightening place for your child. A child with SPD often responds by trying to control what’s happening. He can be very demanding in home environments and rigid about his likes and dislikes. It is important for people around this child to understanding that the ‘bad’ behavior is not because the child is bad but because he is uncomfortable with something and needs help.
The balance between managing behavior, which is often difficult for any parent, now coupled with a child who’s having difficulty adjusting with the environment, can be very challenging on a family unit as a whole. Addressing the sensory needs (right stimulation) of the child through Occupational Therapy and simple environmental changes will make life more positive and enjoyable for all.
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