What is Sensory Processing Disorder? When it comes to sensory processing, what do we really know about it? If you find out that someone close to you is sensory, what does it really mean? How can you understand what somebody else experiences every day?
We are sensory creatures from the moment when we are born. We rely so heavily on our senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell to interpret the world that it’s difficult to imagine our lives without them. Several years ago, my ears became plugged with water after swimming. I just could not clear that water out and I was essentially deaf for two days. All I heard was a hollow sound until my ears dried out several days later. It is seem like an uneventful situation for sure, but I knew it would eventually pass. For most of us simply having no sense of smell because of a cold can make us appreciate just how different life is when one of our sensory systems isn’t working right.
But I don’t understand: what is sensory processing disorder?
Let’s Take a Different Example: have you ever gotten sunburned? Chances are that your skin was sensitive from the burn and if someone brushed against it you probably flinched a little (or a lot). Because the nerves in your skin were at a heightened alertness due to the burn. This is your sensory processing system at work. Of course, avoiding the sunburn in the first place is the best defense, however using aloe or other products to soothe your burn after it’s occurred is a great option to calming your tender skin. Luckily for most people the burn is usually gone from memory within a day or two.
But what if that heightened alertness never went away? This is what some children experience this every day! Our sunburn example demonstrated how we deal with the sense of touch, but it can also happen with any of the body’s sensory systems. In literature about Sensory Processing the example most often given is that of a stereo where the volume button is broken. The only way to listen to it would be at the loudest setting.
The next time you try to answer a question “what is sensory processing disorder?” to to help families of children with Sensory processing issues imagine what life would be like if everything they heard seemed as if it were on that highest volume, every touch to their skin felt like a sunburn, every new food they put in their mouth seemed like biting into a hot chili pepper, smells were completely foul, and regular lighting left your eyes stinging. Thinking about these experiences can help us understand why sometimes our children may react quite negatively to the sensory experiences that seem uneventful to the rest of us. Patience and empathy are the first steps to help your child manage their sensory processing challenges.