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The SPD Companion, Issue #004- Adolescent and Adult SPD
June 01, 2006

Welcome to the fourth edition of the SPD Companion...

Adolescent and Adult SPD: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

First, I would like to say THANK YOU to all who completed the site feedback form from last month's newsletter! That feedback means so much to me, I appreciate the time and effort you took to fill it out. For those who are new, or have not gotten around to filling one out, don't worry, you still can by going here: SPD Companion Back Issue #3: The Gift Of Support

I have to tell you, from the emails I get everyday, and now the site feedback form, there is one theme that just keeps coming up. As people are starting to understand this diagnosis they are not only seeing it in their children, but in themselves as well! Teens and adults are desperate for information and help with what may possibly be SPD; from symptoms to treatment. (Did YOU suggest that on YOUR site feedback form?? Then congrats, YOU are the first winner for a topic! Sorry I don't have any real about just knowing that you are helping others?? OK? Thanks!)

It is true that there are fewer SPD resources directed at adolescents and adults than kids. This, in part, is because often the symptoms and treatment are similar. So, it may have been assumed that much of the information can cross over and be relevant to the older crowd. (Additionally, there is less research on adults, but this IS changing!) But, there is only a handful of unique resources specifically for teens and adults regarding identification and treatment with age appropriate activities.

You are asking for help, and support and I MUST respond!

First, the teenagers...

I know of many stories in which parents have never heard of SPD until their child was a teenager (if they were lucky enough to hear about it at all). At this point the parent and the child have been struggling for too many years; it almost feels hopeless. Parents have just about given up on their teens because they have done all they know how to do, and nothing seems to help. They are tired, they have exhausted every resource they know of, and used up every ounce of energy they had! Patience has all but faded. Add that to the normal issues which crop up for teenagers, and oh!... well you can just imagine!

I am sad to report that I even know of cases where teens have taken or destroyed their lives with suicide, alcohol or drug abuse just to deal with whatever is "wrong" with them! I have seen the extremes... the child just climbs deeper and deeper into a lonesome hole and loses any potential ounce of self-esteem; or they become the riskiest of risk takers and manage their lives through dangerous stunts and substances, anger, and social isolation. They too have "lost" their chance at healthy self-esteem (or so they think). Oh, it is just heartbreaking to see.

Please, let's not allow this to happen any more! I know I am probably "preaching to the choir" because if you are reading this you are most likely well on your way to becoming educated, or are already quite knowledgeable about SPD. But, this is what I beg of you...spread the word! Tell everyone you know about it. Tell one, they tell another, they tell two more, and so on, and so on.

Now, about YOU, the adults...

Have you wondered why you have such a difficult time with so many things that seem to come easy for others? Have you been given a mental health diagnosis and treated for that with little success? Have you always felt that something is not right, but didn't know where to turn? Have you been invalidated and misunderstood your whole life for things that you can't control? Do your sensory sensitivities significantly impact your every day functioning? Are you wondering if your "symptoms" are actually the signs of Sensory Processing Disorder?

Have you read Karen's Story yet? If you want to see what UNTREATED and misunderstood SPD has done to a 49 year old woman, read her story! It is guaranteed to make you understand the importance of identifying and treating SPD.

You must understand, there IS HOPE!! It is up to US and IT IS NOT TOO LATE.

Note: Even Karen is getting better! With our help, she has just begun OT treatment and is finding that her delicate skin is tolerating more since beginning the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol! She can't believe that she doesn't need to soak all her clothes in fabric softener anymore, and her nails are growing for the first time in her life because the feeling doesn't bother her anymore! If she continues her therapy, she will continue to notice positive results.

It's time to start listening to our teens AND adults! They are suffering too.

I can't even tell you how many times I have heard a mom or dad say, or finally figure out, that THEY TOO have significant sensory issues after first recognizing and treating their children for it! Now, there are parents trying to help their children and teens when they TOO have difficulties. That's right...put an SPD kiddo with an SPD parent, and WITHOUT treatment or support, we could very easily have a recipe for disaster!

But, let's look at it another way...who better than a parent with SPD to understand and validate their own SPD child or teen?! (Although not yet proven WHY, know that there does appear to be a strong "genetic" or "hereditary" component to SPD. Continued research should be able to tell us more in the years ahead)

So, what do we do now?

First? Education!

Second? Support and treatment!

Lucky you... I can get you started on both.


Based on the "new" categories of Sensory Processing that Dr. Lucy Miller just revealed in her new book Sensational Kids, I have created an Adult/Adolescent Checklist For Sensory Processing Disorder! I do hope this helps you understand and recognize the symptoms so proper diagnosis and treament can begin!

Keep in mind, this is NOT for definitive diagnostic purposes, only to help determine if further evaluation is needed.

Some of you may even be so familiar with the ways in which you have helped your children (if they have SPD) that you have started your own "sensory diet". Others of you may, instead, have a "flash" when you read it... "OHHHHH, SO THAT'S WHY I DO THAT"..."OHHHHH, I HAD NO IDEA THAT WAS A SENSORY THING". Either way, let's identify it for what it truly is, get rid of negative labels, get a PROPER diagnosis, throw away that low self-esteem, and get on the road to "recovery". Once you understand the "WHY" it is much easier to understand the "WHAT NOW?"!

INTRODUCING... The NEW Adolescent and Adult SPD Checklist!

If you find that you would like to know more about SPD and how it affects adults and adolescents, as well as treatment and accommodation ideas, I would HIGHLY recommend the following books...

How Does Your Engine Run? A Leader's Guide to The Alert Program For Self Regulation ; includes adult checklist and specific sensory diet suggestions!

Too Loud Too Bright, Too Fast Too Tight

Answers to questions teachers ask about sensory integration

Raising A Sensory Smart Child

AND, make sure you read Sensory Diet vs. The Alert Program , by our special guest, Michelle Morris; if you haven't already read it or come to understand how they are similar, yet different. A "must-read"!

And now...

Professionals and Supports...

OK, so you think YOU or YOUR TEENAGER might have a Sensory Processing Disorder that needs to be evaluated and/or treated? Well, the first place I would start is by contacting a local Occupational Therapist who has experience treating kids and/or adults with SPD. Not sure who to call?

Click here for a state-by-state listing of Occupational Therapy Associations that can help you! Or, you can browse the SIPT certified Occupational Therapist database by clicking here. .

While you await a professional evaluation or treatment (if necessary) I would keep reading as much information as you can possibly get your hands on... education is absolutely the GREATEST place to start.

If it is your older child or teenager you are concerned about... then sit down with your teen and help them understand the facts, the reasons, the disorder. Help them realize they are not alone!! This is NOT their fault or yours... it just IS. It is the same as having any other neurological disorder! It is the central nervous system and the brain that are incorrectly interpreting sensory stimuli... this does NOT make us "weird", it makes us someone who needs treatment and modifications to our lifestyle... the same as ANY other "illness", "disorder", "disease", "medical issue", etc.

Being older is a mixed blessing as far as "treatment" goes. The down side is that these sensory issues were not addressed earlier, self-esteem has probably suffered and life experiences been missed. The up side, however, is that you have coping skills that younger children do not. You have probably, naturally, made accomodations in your life based on your sensory preferences. That may be working well enough, which is great! If it is not, however, we need to help you. If you are having difficulty functioning in any areas of adult "occupation", whether it be work, rest, or "play", then education and treatment needs to happen.

Besides reading and educating yourself as much as you possibly can, I have a few suggestions for support, which IS CRITICALLY important! First, counseling can never hurt. It may be a necessary part of your treatment, either individually or as a family. Let a professional decide. You have been invalidated or misunderstood for so long, it is almost guaranteed to have affected your self-esteem and coping skills. It's OK to get help! You need it, and it should be from someone who understands this disorder. If they don't understand the disorder, at least find a professional who is willing to learn about it. You NEED a good fit and validating therapist!

GREAT NEWS!! We have JUST formed an adult SPD support group!!

You need to know there are many adults with this disorder, that can offer help, support, or just a listening ear. It is a great place to talk to other parents and other adults that truly understand your struggles...

We are proud to introduce...

SPD Adult SHARE! Come join us at:

Also remember that many of the parents in the "All About Kids" group (which is the main support group we have been using) struggle with their own sensory issues as well. And while mainly focusing on helping their kids, you can find them supporting each other with adult SPD issues too...

SID-DSI_AllAboutKids! You can join over 900 wonderful families at:

Keep in mind, our beloved Michelle Morris is owner of both of these groups and does a wonderful job taking care of "her people".

So whether you are in there talking about your kids or you, it's all the same, we are all a big family and support each other in any way we can! Come join us in ANY of the groups for some much needed support!

PLEASE, UNDERSTAND... YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You CAN help yourself and your child, it's NOT too late!

Sensory Diets

Below you will find some general ideas to help you begin developing a sensory diet for teens or adults. Before reading them, make sure you have already read Michelle Morris's article, Creating a Home Sensory Diet (brand new to my site, just released!!) to help you understand the basics about sensory diets.

So, let's get you started "thinking sensory"!!

General Guidelines For
Sensory Input / Sensory Diets


  • variable music, sounds
  • bright, artificial light
  • crunch or chew
  • salty, spicy, or bitter flavors
  • rotary and/or oscillating movement
  • cold or hot temperatures
  • light touch
  • hanging or stretching muscles/joints
  • horizontal head position


  • soft, rhythmic sounds
  • dim or natural lighting
  • chew or suck
  • sweet tastes
  • linear movement
  • neutral warm temperatures
  • deep pressure
  • carrying and/or pushing objects
  • vertical head position

  • You need to already know, or TRY, different activities to see which ones produce your desired result. Each person's nervous system is individual and everyone reacts differently to various stimuli. Some activities help with sensory modulation issues, some for sensory motor, some for sensory discrimmination, and some can be used for all three.

    Just use the guidelines above, think about what you typically do to calm or rev yourself up, or what you have difficulty doing and need some more practice or accomodations for... and with the help of your OT, you can figure out what is right for YOU!

    Age Appropriate Sensory Diet Ideas For Adolescents and/or Adults


    Wilbarger Brushing Protocol (under direction of OT), weighted vest, weighted blanket, massage chairs and mats, spandex/lycra clothing under regular clothing, swimming, bean bag chair, fabric softener, deep pressure/heavy work activities before dentist/hairdresser, hammock and hammock chair, warm bath, massage parlor, jaccuzzi or hot tub


    Relax chairs, hammocks, hammock chair, glider rocking chair, bicycles, jogging, amusement park rides, bench swing, swimming, waterslides, exercise equipment, therapy ball, water skiing, tubing, sledding, jet skiing, hangliding, sky diving, bungee jumping, rocking chair


    Trampoline, bean bag chair, jumping jacks, running, aerobics, sports (especially contact sports), sleeping bag, weighted products (vests, blankets, lap pads, hats, etc.), massagers, massage chairs and pads, tubing and/or knee boarding, massage parlor, tight clothing (spandex, lycra)


    Relaxing music, earplugs, cotton balls in ears, musical instruments, therapeutic listening program, white noise machines, water fountains, nature sound machines and tapes, windchimes, headphones (special noise reducing or regular ones to block some sound and relax/distact you with your own music)


    Vibrating toothbrush, nuk toothbrush, oral massagers, gum, sour candy, straws with thick drinks, crunchy or chewy foods, sweet, sour and/or bitter foods, lollipops, licorice, a warm cup of tea


    Incense sticks, cologne, perfume, car sprays and air fresheners, aromatherapy oils, carpet sprays, scented candles, potpouri, aromatherapy machines

    Bothered by cleaning smells in your home? Then read... Cleaning Solutions For The Hypersensitive

    You will find many of these activities, products, and equipment at any of the links below. Others will only be obtained through your therapist, in a clinic, or within your community. Visit any of the following to find what YOU are looking for...

    The Sensory Processing Disorder Store

    Sensory Integration Treatment Activities

    Sensory Integration Products

    Sensory Integration Equipment

    I know this was a lot of information to, let's re-cap.

  • First, read over and fill out the checklists to see if you or your teen have some significant signs of trouble functioning, based on the symptoms of SPD.
  • Next, call your local OTA and find an Occupational Therapist that treats adults/teens with SPD. (or, if you ARE an OT, use this checklist as a SCREENING tool, NOT a diagnostic test!)
  • Talk to professionals to see if they are knowledgeable about SPD and able to evaluate and treat you or your teen.
  • Get an evaluation if indicated.
  • While, read, read the articles and books mentioned in this newsletter. Both YOU and YOUR teen (if this is about them) need to understand how SPD manifests itself in adults! Educate yourself as much as you possibly can and talk about it. Let your teenager know you finally understand!

    Another informative article you don't want to miss about adults with SPD is:

  • Also, join one of the support groups above, if not already in one.
  • Finally, start treatment if indicated and get on the road to a happier, healthier, rewarding life and career!

  • One last thing, as you read this newsletter I will be recovering from surgery. Assuming all goes well I should be back in (limited) gear in one or two weeks. If that is the case, I will be making next month's newsletter all about Sensory Diets! I will talk about activity suggestions and accomadations for home and school for all ages...the how, when, why etc., as a continuation to the sensory diet information I started this month. So keep this issue handy to refer back to. Those are my plans, let's hope my recovery is good!

    If you have any questions from today's newsletter, feel free to contact me via the "contact us" form!

    Until next time my friends...bear hugs for everyone!


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