articles / Family life

Sensory Processing Disorder: Recognizing hypo-sensitivity

*Just so everyone knows, the only things I know about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) come from research because we’re awaiting the 100% final diagnosis of the particular sensitivities Josiah has. We know he has hypo-sensitivity issues, we just don’t know to what extent and what types. This is the beginning of the journey for us. We are in Kindergarten when it comes to learning about SPD.*

There are a lot of questions about SPD. First of all, having SPD does not mean the child is autistic. It does not mean they have ADD or ADHD or any other disorder. SPD can come all by itself. Children with autism, ADD, and ADHD have SPD issues, but SPD is not necessarily a sign of a larger problem.

Also, SPD does not mean a child is slow in any form or fashion. Aside from children who have SPD that are on the autism spectrum, these children are intelligent and verbal and don’t appear to be different aside from their sensory “quirks”.

A child with SPD will either be hyper-sensitive or hypo-sensitive.

Hyper-sensitivity I think is easier to spot because the child is overly sensitive to various stimuli such as textures, touch, sounds, lights, etc…Most of us have seen hyper-sensitivity in children with autism. I’ve learned that unless someone has been exposed to it before, hypo-sensitivity is a new concept and not easily recognized.

Hypo-sensitivity is the exact opposite of hyper-sensitivity. Children with hypo-sensitivity are under-sensitive. For example, when you touch a hyper-sensitive child on the back, they may feel like you’ve punched them. When you touch a hypo-sensitive child on the back, they may not feel it at all. Hypo-sensitive children seek extra sensory input which often causes them to be in trouble.

I’ve mentioned it before, but here’s some of the things Josiah will do to get him in trouble at school:

  • Cannot sit still and needs to be in constant motion
  • Hums constantly and doesn’t even realize he’s doing it (he will whistle too, but I think I’ve stopped that)
  • Hangs off of door knobs, back pack hooks, and anything that will support his weight
  • “Pinball” or body slam other people
  • Cannot lay still or quiet at nap time
  • Has a hard time concentrating on school work and has a very short attention span
  • Has frequent melt-downs which include flailing himself to the ground and kicking and screaming hysterically for long periods of time over

This is not a complete list I’m sure, but this is what he typically does. As I’m writing this the melt-downs have pretty much gone away (thank you, Jesus), he hasn’t been to the principal’s office in a week and he hasn’t received any bad notes. Most of them say, “Good, but VERY active day.”

We haven’t started his official therapy yet, but at home we’ve been trying a few different techniques we’ve read about and at school they’re trying to adjust the way they do things in order to keep Josiah from being in trouble.

For example, Josiah’s teacher is 100% OK with the humming. She said his humming doesn’t disturb her or the other kids and when he’s humming he’s paying attention. At circle time, he sits in a chair behind everyone else because he IS going to wiggle and move and he seems to stay focused longer when he’s behind everyone. They have bought him a rocking chair (Occupation therapist recommended) and he will sit in that during circle time.

Also, at the beginning of nap time he goes and hangs out with the principal or reads with his reading partner from the local college (college students getting lab credit for reading to the kids) until the other children are asleep. This prevents Josiah from being distracted while they’re trying to get him to sleep and it keeps him from distracting others.

Sadly, from what I’ve read and what Josiah’s Occupational Therapist has said, most children are kicked out of daycare/preschool before the disorder is recognized and diagnosed. People don’t see the symptoms of the disorder (like I listed above) and think that there’s an actual issue other than an under-disciplined child in need of a good time out or spanking.

Now that we have a diagnosis and we are awaiting treatment, it is a relief to know that there is NOTHING wrong with Josiah and he is not a bad kid and we are not bad parents — there are just a few issues that we need to work through with him.

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