Diverse Abilities

Gina Martin

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Sensory Processing Disorder

sensory overload

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurological condition that affects how someone’s brain processes sensory information (sensory integration), causing extreme sensitivity to stimuli. From 5% to 16.5% of the population lives with SPD according to Occupational therapist, psychologist, and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D., likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. For some with SPD, outside stimuli are dulled, muting sights, sounds, and touch. These individuals crave extra stimulation to arouse themselves – like needing the jolt of a wake-up shower after a sleepless night. These are the people who love to spin and swing upside down; their stimulation-seeking behavior may be easily mistaken for ADHD hyperactivity and poor impulse control.

SPD can affect all or any number of our senses:

1. Visual – sight

2. Auditory - hearing

3. Olfactory - smell

4. Gustatory - taste

5. Tactile – sensation from touch

6. Vestibular - sense of head movement in space

7. Proprioceptive - sensations from muscles and joints of body

8. Interoceptive – perception of sensations from within the body

Everyone is affected by sensory input. Have you ever felt a twinge of pain during a loud movie or become a little overwhelmed while shopping in a bright, busy store? The average human can have some degree of sensory sensitivity even if they don’t realize it.

Sensory processing disabilities occur when there is a breakdown in how the brain translates the sensory information provided from the central nervous system. The brain may fail to recognize, connect, misinterpret, or respond appropriately to the input. Sensory processing issues can be displayed differently from person to person. A person may have different responses, depending on the sensation.

Helpful tips

When booking an appointment, you can ask if they need any accommodation. This will let you know if someone requires any accessibility while meeting with you.

Try to avoid flashing or blinking lights. They can be a trigger for people with Epilepsy, Autism, brain injury, SPD, and others.

Ask what you can do to be a support.

Don’t judge someone without knowing their story. Maybe the little girl having a temper tantrum or is not getting her way is in fact over stimulated by the sounds of the sirens on the next street that she cannot process, and the noise is so loud that it physically hurts her.

We never know someone’s story. If you are curious about a person, please ask the individual so you gain accurate info on that person. Please be kind!

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