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FALL into Your Senses: An 8-Part Series About Our Sensory Systems in Honor of SPD Awareness Month

Not only is October the month for sweaters, spookiness, and pumpkins, it is the month that brings awareness to Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), a disorder that impacts the daily life of 1 in 6 children (STAR Institute, n.d.). Our sensory systems are the ones that guide us toward safety and away from danger as we venture through the day. They pick up the sensory information on the outside of our body and within our body to keep us safe and functioning. Essentially, as sensory information comes into or from our body and up to our brain, our brain decides if the input is too much or too little and directs our behavior in response to it. Think about a toddler or yourself touching a hot stove and immediately pulling their hand away, the input was too much (too hot!) and the toddler’s brain responded reactively to move the hand away from this sensory input. SPD arises when the over or under responsivity that our brain processes, causes challenges or dysfunction in an individual’s daily life (i.e. if the toddler touches the hot stove but does not pull their hand away for a while).

In children with SPD, a sense of safety is constantly thwarted, thus their bodies are in need of constant safety seeking. When the sense of safety is being compromised, this leads to the child’s body to become dysregulated and have a meltdown. Often, SPD, or even sensory sensitivities, get missed because parents and professionals assume the child has behavior problems or is intentionally misbehaving. In reality, the child’s body is telling them that the environment surrounding them is not a safe one, and fight or flight is initiated in the child’s body.

While SPD can involve a different combination of sensory systems between individuals (i.e. one child with SPD may have challenges that look different than another with SPD), the infographic below, along with sleep, eating, and language development problems are common signs to notice and pay attention to. Promptly seeking out a professional for more information, assessment, and support is encouraged.

It is important to bring awareness to SPD, because far too often individuals internalize their challenges as “wrong” or “weird” and this can lead to poor self-esteem, depression, high levels of stress, and enhanced comorbid disorders or symptoms. It is important for children and individuals with SPD to learn and grow with their bodies and brains in a positive and encouraging way. For more information specific to SPD, below are several resources you can look into.

While SPD may not be present for your child or yourself, you might find in reading this series that you and/or your child does have some sensory sensitivities. Oftentimes our senses dictate our preferences in the world (i.e., the clothes we wear, the foods we eat, the activities we try/avoid) and we don’t always know what to do with that information. Learning about SPD can help you to become more confident in your sensory preferences. It is important to know our sensory systems and what support they may need to help our brain and body function the way we need them to. In the upcoming blogs, you will receive a deep dive into all 8 sensory systems, what it can look like when there is sensitivity present, and ways to help support those sensory systems to have a happier, more grounded, and more effective daily experience.

Written: Celia Courser & Cary M. Hamilton

References: STAR Institute (n.d.). About SPD.


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