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Sensory Processing Disorder, The Disorder that Technically Isn’t One.

February 27, 2020
by Becky Ferrigno

Imagine you are in a car. You are experiencing the perfect road trip. Your GPS is updated and tells you the correct way to turn at the exact moment you need the information. The owner of the car came prepared to meet everyone’s unique needs. They have provided the right snacks to keep the passengers happy, the temperature in the car is pleasing for all, and the road is smooth to drive on. You arrive at your destination, calm, rested, and ready to go. This scenario is representative of life with a neurotypical central nervous system.

Now imagine you are in the same car but are part of a very different road trip. This car trip is one out of a nightmare. There are too many people in the car, and the GPS keeps telling you it is “recalculating.” To make matters worse, you get a flat tire, the driver forgot the snacks at home, and the road is full of potholes. After an eight hour delay, you finally get to your destination, out of sorts, and disheveled, hoping never to see any of the car passengers ever again.

This scenario is representative of life with Sensory Processing Disorder.

Now imagine if you were living with this disorder, and you can’t get the help you need because half of the medical population can’t agree if it exists.

What would life be like for you? For your family?

Here are the facts.

Fact 1: Current research out of UC San Fransisco says that SPD affects between 5-16% of all school-aged students. That means one out of every fifteen to twenty kids have sensory difficulties. 

Fact 2: No one is quite sure what causes people to be born with SPD. Researchers think it is likely that SPD is inherited. That means you are more likely to be born with SPD if a member of your family has it too.

Fact 3: To complicate matters, SPD affects everyone differently. People with SPD experience a range of symptoms from minimal to severe. Currently, there are three significant ways that SPD affects a person. Most people with SPD have a combination of traits from all three types. Some symptoms may be more severe than others, and it entirely depends on how SPD affects each unique sensory system like touch, sound, or movement.

Fact 4: SPD is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and so children with SPD do not qualify for any support services in school unless they have another diagnosis found in the manual.

Let that sink in for a minute. People diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder can only receive services to manage their disability, as they would for a Learning Disability or Autism if they can pay for them. Until professionals can decide if the diagnosis exists independently of other disabilities, this will continue to be the case.

So what can we do? It begins with education and advocacy. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing blog posts on the topic of Sensory Processing Disorder. Educate yourself and then take a moment and educate others. You might be surprised by how many people in your life you can help.