Sensory Processing Disorders: Through The Eyes Of Dysfunction

Have you ever wondered what children or adults with sensory processing disorders feel like, or have to deal with? I certainly have.

Now I would like to give you the opportunity to see SPD "through the eyes of dysfunction". This can, in turn, lead to acceptance, understanding, and avoidance of blame and judgment.

Please open your hearts and minds to the struggles individuals with sensory processing disorders go through on a daily basis.

We can see the behavioral signs of distress with too much input, or the energy of not enough input. But, what does the child/adult really go through while trying to take in and effectively process the bombardment of daily sensory input?

Stanley Greenspan, the author of The Challenging Child: Understanding, Raising, and Enjoying the Five ""Difficult"" Types of Children has an insightful analogy to help us understand what people experience when they can not effectively process, or interpret, sensory input.

He describes it this way:

"Imagine driving a car that isn't working well. When you step on the gas the car sometimes lurches forward and sometimes doesn't respond. When you blow the horn it sounds blaring. The brakes sometimes slow the car, but not always. The blinkers work occasionally, the steering is erratic, and the speedometer is inaccurate. You are engaged in a constant struggle to keep the car on the road, and it is difficult to concentrate on anything else." It's no wonder children with sensory processing disorders feel out of control, exhibit a whole host of behaviors, and have difficulty concentrating and focusing at school!

Now, also imagine being a parent of one of these children. Many parents have expressed how exhausted, rejected, lost, incompetent and alone they feel in trying to live with, and understand, their child.

I challenge you to remember this beautifully painful quote the next time you encounter a child with sensory processing disorders and begin the process of awareness, understanding, and treatment to help them take control of their bodies, minds and self-esteem.

It is so very difficult for them. Let's acknowledge that and do our best to understand and help them!

Let me put this another way for you, from an adult perspective.

I once did a presentation in a conference room full of adults that worked in day care and preschool settings. I wanted them to relate to and understand the children they saw in their classrooms that struggled with sensory processing disorders.

I explained it to them this way...

Imagine if:


  • You could see obstacles in your way, but you could not make your body move the direction you wanted it to to avoid them.

  • You felt like someone had given you a shot of Novocain in your backside so you couldn't feel if you were sitting in the middle of your chair and you fell off 3 times during this training.

  • Your clothes felt like they were made of fiberglass.

  • You tried to drink a cup of water from a paper cup, only you couldn't tell how hard to squeeze it to hold onto it. So, you squeezed it too hard and the water spilled all over you. The next time you didn't squeeze it hard enough and it fell right through your hands and onto the floor.

  • Every time you tried to write with your pencil, it broke because you pushed too hard.

  • The different smells in this room made you utterly nauseous.

  • The humming of the lights sounded louder than my voice.

  • You couldn't focus your eyes on me because everything and everyone in the room catches your attention and your eyes just go there instead.

  • The lights are so bright you have to squint, then you get a pounding headache half way through the presentation

  • Every time someone touches you, it feels like they are rubbing sandpaper on your skin.

  • You could only sit here for 15 minutes and then you had to take a run around the building or do 20 jumping jacks so you could sit for another 10 minutes before your muscles felt like they were going to jump out of your skin.

  • People's whispers sounded like they were yelling.

  • The tag in the back of your shirt makes you feel as uncomfortable as you would if a spider was crawling on you and you couldn't get him off.

  • You wanted to write something down but it took you at least 5 seconds to form each letter. You can see the letter in your head, but your hand will not go in the right direction to write it.

  • You had to pull the car over 3 times on the ride here because the motion makes you sick.

  • These examples may sound extreme but for some with sensory processing disorders they are not.

    At least as adults we have grown to understand ourselves and our bodies. We know what we can and can not tolerate, what does or does not feel good and most importantly, we have the coping skills and problem solving abilities to deal with it the best we know how. These children do not!

    Unless we understand what is going on, help them understand their own bodies and minds, get them the right treatment and help them find the coping skills and insight, they will continue to suffer until adulthood.

    Sensory processing disorders are best treated if caught before the age of 7 when the nervous system is still malleable.

    It is imperative we identify and treat these children as early as possible so we can make a positive difference and get to them before...


  • learning is too difficult

  • self-esteem has suffered too much

  • relationships never fully develop

  • and they begin to isolate themselves into their own little safe and protective world.

  • The time is now!

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