SPD And Hunger Issues

by Laura Montalbano
(Sacramento, CA )

My child is always hungry and getting overweight

Hi, my daughter is 8 yrs old and has just been diagnosed w/ SPD. She is 25 lbs overweight. She has always been hungry and says she is not full. She will eat (at home) all day if she could. We have tried to monitor her food intake and she is still growing. Is there anything we can do to help her with the not feeling full and always hungry? My daughter's SPD is the under stimulating type. She is lacking stimulation getting to her brain. We have her in OT at her school, which is great, but I am concerned that she will keep getting larger and become obese.

Thank you.

The SPD Help Line Responds...

There is a good chance, since she has SPD (especially hyposensitivity; underreactive to sensory stimuli) that her interoceptive sense is affected. This is the sense that controls the internal organs/autonomic nervous system... i.e., hunger, breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, bladder/bowel, sleep, etc. Did she also have difficulty with potty training-- feeling sensations in her bladder or bowel? Does she have difficulty with temperature regulation or breathing/heart rates? Or is it just the hunger issue? I'll be honest, this is the least "studied" area of SPD (from a sensory integrative frame of reference), and one that does not resolve as quickly as the other senses. BUT, it can and should get better with sensory integrative OT, as her nervous system begins to interpret messages more efficiently/clearly and allow her to experience sensations differently.

(Note: Please make sure all "medical" causes have been ruled out though too, ok?)

But, here's the thing. She is going to need more OT than what she will get in school, for sure! So, first, my questions... who diagnosed her with SPD? Was this done in a private clinic, at a children's hospital, etc.? Can you get her treated privately (in addition to school OT) through the facility who diagnosed her? Did she get tested using the SIPT (Sensory Integration And Praxis Test)? Did the OT who diagnosed her (I assume it was an OT?) recommend treatment for her? Where? How often? Did you already have the school OT services before the official SPD diagnosis?

Here are a few things to do while I await your answers. The FIRST thing you need to do is find the BEST OT you can for her, especially considering the deep interoceptive issues. Please read, Sensory Integrative OT... What You Need To Know Before Starting. This will help you find the best one, understand what you need to do, what to expect, and how to get the most out of OT.

Next, it will be important to work closely with the OT and talk to your daughter about how her body does not feel hunger and fullness like other people do. That until OT treatment helps her body get these feelings and messages, you will help her try to identify them or know when her stomach has had enough. Don't put the emphasis on the weight. This won't help. The weight is most likely a consequence of faulty signals... not her 'fault' by any means. As OT progresses, these signals should start to come; s-l-o-w-l-y. Treatment will address this IF the OT has significant experience with sensory integrative theories and therapies. She will need a more whole body approach and some companion programs that the school will not be able to provide (for lack of time and "educational" goals). So private therapy will need to be added. If they use proper codes, it may be covered by your insurance. For a list of some commonly used diagnostic codes, click here.

If you need help talking to your daughter about how her SPD specifically affects her, you may find some good ideas by reading... Explaining SPD To Your Child. Also, in addition to working with her OT, who will help you understand all of this fully, I HIGHLY recommend the following books:

The Out of Sync Child (revised)

Sensory Integration And The Child (25th Anniversary Edition) (this is a much more in depth study, but an invaluable resource!)

I also highly recommend joining the online support group AllAboutKids. With over 1,200 parents in this support group and WONDERFUL people who own and run it, I KNOW you will find other parents of SPD kids who have/are dealing with this very issue. Surely they can help you further understand what may be going on and how to help your daughter.

This will get better with some intense treatment with a very knowledgable OT regarding sensory integration/sensory processing. I hope the resources I have led you to will help get you started.

I look forward to your response regarding my questions, so I might be able to help you further. You can do so using the comments box below.

Can anyone else relate? Has anyone else experienced these issues themselves or with their children? What have YOU found helpful? Any suggestions for this concerned mom?

Comments for SPD And Hunger Issues

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Nov 10, 2013
Prader-Willi Syndrome
by: Anonymous

Maybe Prader-Willi Syndrome?

Apr 16, 2008
SPD and being overweight
by: Mark F

I am interested in any medical references or papers on the topic of SPD and being overweight.

Nov 29, 2007
Weight gain
by: Jim Schicht

Great article we have been fighting my daughter's weight for years; she is 14. I have not seen any information regarding this very important issue concerning our children.

Nov 26, 2007
Hunger and SPD
by: laura

Michele thanks for all your great info. My daughter has been tested with an IEP at school and due to this we received an OT evaluation. My daughter has had a struggle with bathroom cleanliness and staying dry at night. After we found out about SPD I know this explains the bathroom issues. My poor kid, besides not feeling her senses, she has ADD and gets lost looking at the shiny light while in the bathroom and forgets to wipe/wash. We have been working on this and it has gotten better.

I am going to show our OT the info that you gave me. And I will work on getting a diagnosis from our Dr. to see if we can get her more OT. Thanks again for all your information. And group info. My research is cut out for me.

Nov 26, 2007
Oral fixation
by: Amy

Our 8 year-old son is starting to get thick in the middle, has temperature regulation problems, and still wetting at night. We've tried to encourage him to drink water through a crazy staw during the day (using his buccal muscles for sucking, crunch on apples, carrots, crackers, popcorn, pretzels as well as chewing sugarless gum frequently. We also noticed he puts his fingers in his mouth at time which may just be loose teeth but I thought it was significant to mention. It seems to be helpful to be aware of WHAT he's putting into his mouth as well as HOW MUCH. I think the texture may satisfy just as much. Good luck!


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