See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil
by Danette M. Schott
(San Jose, CA)
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. The visual of this simple proverb makes me think of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). The "evil" in this case is bright or flickering lights, noise that is too loud, or perhaps food that is too spicy or has an unappealing texture. When these evil things bombard a child with SPD, she will squint her eyes, plug her ears, close her mouth, or try to find some other form of escape. Unlike the three wise monkeys, children with SPD are not of sound mind, speech, and action. They are being bombarded by stimuli and their bodies do not know how to respond.
The Ultimate Guide to Sensory Processing Disorder by Roya Ostovar, Ph.D. is a fabulous addition to the existing resources addressing SPD. I was fortunate enough to not only be able to review her book, but also interview Dr. Ostovar.
When she's not writing, Dr. Ostovar keeps herself busy as a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and is the director of the Center for Neurodevelopmental Services at McLean Hospital. Regarding her interest in SPD, Dr. Ostovar shared:
"I have been working with children with developmental and psychiatric disorders and their families for over 13 years and in that time I have seen, first hand, how children and the quality of their lives are affected by symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder. The effects can be devastating, if left untreated. SPD impacts all areas of functioning and makes the world feel overwhelming for the child. I felt compelled to share the knowledge and experience that I had gained over the years from working with individuals, families, and schools with everyone through my book."
The Ultimate Guide to Sensory Processing Disorder starts out with the customary explanation of SPD and a review of the current research. Dr. Ostovar has defined Sensory Processing Disorder as "an inefficiency in our central nervous system to process information, namely incoming stimuli." In addition to issues with the typically known five senses, children with SPD may also have balance and coordination problems.
Next in her book, Dr. Ostovar encourages parents to step into their child's shoes and understand what it feels like to live with SPD. She offers a number of exercises for parents to help them experience excessive sensory input. There's nothing like an example to drive home a point and I found them very useful. Here is an example of one exercise:
"For an understanding of tactile over responsibility, put a piece of sandpaper inside your sock or attach it to the back of your shirt where the tags are, or on the inside of a turtleneck shirt. Then try spending a day going around your normal daily activities, such as work, school, shopping, watching TV, reading, talking to others, and so on, while experiencing the feelings of having sandpaper on your skin." (pages 51-52)
Dr. Ostovar further adds to the growing body of knowledge on Sensory Processing Disorder by explaining that living with SPD is similar to living with a constant stress that does not diminish. This information along with the exercises provided by Dr. Ostovar, helps parents, teachers, and other professionals to better understand what a child with SPD is experiencing.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A proper diagnosis is important, otherwise a child's actions may be misinterpreted as defiant, difficult, volatile, and uncooperative. A diagnosis puts a family on a path for treatment that can significantly improve their child's behavior and alleviate stress at home and school.
I asked Dr. Ostovar what she believes are the most important considerations when selecting a professional to evaluate a child for SPD and here is her response:
an important question since getting a correct diagnosis is the first step to getting the right treatment. In my book, The Ultimate Guide to Sensory Processing Disorder in Children, I have dedicated an entire chapter, chapter 5, to this question. This chapter, “Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment-Where to begin,” walks you through what you need to know step-by-step. The short answer, however, is to look for an Occupational Therapist with expertise and training in the assessment and treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder."
The Ultimate Guide is peppered with true accounts of children with SPD. These stories reveal issues that children were experiencing prior to the SPD diagnosis, the evaluation process is shared, as well as treatment recommendations. These personal accounts help parents and others to learn what SPD looks like, how it affects a child and her family, what to expect during an evaluation, and possible treatment plans. Dr. Ostovar elaborated:
"The most effective treatment option for a child with SPD is Occupational Therapy, more specifically, Sensory Integration Therapy by a properly trained Occupational Therapist. After a thorough evaluation, the therapist will provide you with a Sensory Diet, an individualized treatment plan that outlines specific activities that will effectively treat the child’s sensory challenges. At times, it might make sense to augment OT with other therapies depending on the specific needs of the child. These may include Physical Therapy, if, for example, the child presents with significant problems with gross motor skills, balance, and movement or psychological counseling if the symptoms and/or the diagnosis have lead to psychological issues such as self-esteem problems for the child."
An entire chapter addresses SPD and common events that families' encounter, such as holidays, weddings, vacations, birthday parties, and more. Dr. Ostovar presents the event and specific things to consider when deciding if a child should participate. Each event has tips for handling it and debriefing afterward is encouraged.
Other Disorders with Similar Symptoms
I really liked Chapter 7: The Difference between SPD and Look-Alike Disorders. Similar to many other disorders like autism and ADHD, there is no blood test or paper and pencil test for SPD to determine 100% what is going on with your child. Dr. Ostovar describes other disorders that have similar symptoms to SPD, such as autism, Asperger's, bipolar, and ADHD. In addition to this, a child may have one or more of these disorders in combination with SPD. Dr. Ostovar further explained:
"The term Sensory Processing Disorder is relatively new as far as public and professional awareness is concerned. Not all clinicians are trained at this time to recognize and discern the symptoms of SPD which can lead to misdiagnosis or, even worse, the child being labeled as a “behavioral” child. Due to the terrible implications of mislabeling a child, I have included an entire chapter in the book addressing the difference between SPD and what I call the “look-alike disorders.” Encouragingly, I am seeing more and more coverage and interest on SPD which will over time increase awareness among parents, teachers, and professional."
The Ultimate Guide to Sensory Processing Disorder can be a helpful tool for any parent suspecting sensory issues or who are already dealing with a child with a SPD diagnosis. You will find many useful pieces of information to share with your child's teacher and an entire chapter is devoted to how to create a classroom that is sensory-friendly. This easy-to-understand book on SPD can be purchased at Future Horizons.
Note: Future Horizons provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for it being reviewed. The opinions expressed in this post are mine and have not been influenced in any way. This book is currently included in a giveaway at http://sos-research-blog.com/.