When thinking about the topic of organization for children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) I wanted to start by asking you a simple question.
Are the kids with SPD naturally inclined to disorganization and chaos?
I don’t necessarily mean that they are messy people, but more about their state of minds being chaotic. Is your child trying to make and create a routine when he engages in sensory seeking or avoiding behaviors? Does the sensory activity bring organization of the mind? Does avoiding sensory activities help maintain organization?
I think the answer to this question is generally yes. The reason is that for whatever reason children with sensory processing difficulties are either under or over sense their environment. All children are naturally born as sensory creatures. They explore the world around them through the senses of touch, taste, smell, sounds, and sights. They are like little scientists trying to figure out their worlds by using sensing activities such as putting everything in their mouths, having to touch everything in the store even when you’ve asked them not to – babbling or screeching just to hear how it sounds… This is how they understand their world and learn about interacting and staying safe in their environment.
When something is different about how you organize and understand your world, it means that you need to engage in either significantly more or significantly less sensory activities in order to keep order within your own body and mind. Children with Sensory Processing Disorder are often described as being unregulated. With the lack of calmness and order within their brains, we see disorganized, anxious or seemingly out of control little people.
Sadly, many people interpret this as a child that is poorly behaved and poorly parented. The truth is: your child is trying to gain control! I don’t believe that children try to misbehave when they are engaged in disbalanced sensory seeking and I don’t think that they are being unreasonable when they are sensory avoiding. They are doing the things that make sense for them.
They do what they do to organize their brains and help them to function within their environment.
The treatment for children with SPD is often consists of helping the child to organize their body and mind. Deep pressure, massage or water play can do a great job helping to bring calmness for some. When a child is in tune with his internal organization, he will be more likely to appear calm on the outside. It supports focus and learning and that in turn can further help the child to develop effective strategies for both their academics and finding other coping techniques for their SPD challenges.
The internal functions are therefore very important in supporting your child. However, it also needs to be said that the external environment plays an incredibly important role when we are looking at the overall management of sensory issues.
Children who are sensory defensive often require a calm environment in order to feel safe. These children very often appear cautious and anxious. In a disorganized environment they may be more wary of sensory surprises and therefore are spending more time being on high alert instead of the usual business of children which is playing to learn. They tend not to be risk takers because they are trying to prevent overstimulation of the areas that are particularly sensitive to.
As parents of sensory children, we learn pretty quickly that loud, crowded places disbalance our children, turning them into little animals that hear, see or understand no word of reason. We sometimes forget that our homes or classrooms may also be contributing. A “loud” environment that is visually noisy or full of many other sensory events can be just as difficult for a sensitive child. When we try to minimize the sensory chaos for them, we can lower their response dial down to a more manageable level. This is of course of huge benefit for the kids, but it can also be helpful for us as caregivers. Dealing with an epic meltdown is difficult regardless if it was caused by a busy mall or bright lights, classroom music, or too many posters up on the wall.
Looking to continue the conversation of organization for the kids with SPD? Check out Organize Your Sensory Child – Part 2
Sensory Processing Disorder Seeker is not easy to understand and every child has a different story. My posts are about my sensory seeker son, but I really hope that some of this can help you if anything I share can help you or someone you know.