Being successful in modern society implies dealing with different tasks successfully. Successful people usually make winning choices based on their theoretical and practical knowledge of the world. Thus, individual perceptions of the world contribute to personal success. Nevertheless, a distorted perception of reality may become a hindrance to success. That is a particular problem for those who suffer from sensory processing disorder. This condition can become a real challenge for a person. That is why it is important to know its signs and symptoms, its causes and consequences, and its influence on an individual’s life.
Sensory processing disorder is a condition that emerges under the misinterpretation of everyday sensory information. It includes responses to touch, sound and movement information necessary for adequate functioning in the environment. Though the causes of the disorder have not been identified, it can be often inherited. It allows one to say that the condition has a genetic factor in it. Sensory processing disorder is exemplified by considerable problems in organizing sensation from the body and the environment. People with this condition usually have difficulties in the performance of daily routine acts, together with leisure and play actions. Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is usually diagnosed in children, but it can also affect adults. According to the study of Roianne Ahn et al., “at least 1 in 20 children’s daily lives is affected by SPD” (291). Sometimes people who have not treated experience symptoms in adulthood as well. Thus, they continue to suffer from their inability to interpret their sensory messages effectively. Apart from that, sensory processing issues usually come with developmental disorders like autism.
The interesting fact about this disorder is that it affects patients differently. It can either affect people in one sense (just movement or just sight) or in multiple senses. One individual with SPD may over-respond to sensation, and the other may under-respond to sensation. Those with over-responsivity usually display such symptoms as irritation by clothing fabrics, disproportional response to touch, sensitivity to sounds (volume and frequency), avoidance of crowds and noisy places, irritation by light, sleeping disorders, high activity level, and extremely high pain threshold.
Meanwhile, those with under-responsivity usually display such symptoms as responsiveness to visual, auditory (even to becoming deaf) and movement stimulation, difficulties in waking up, slowness, unawareness of being soiled or wet (in little children) and unawareness of causing pain to other people. Thus, while one is bothered by light, sound or physical contact, the other would not react to stimulation at all. Sometimes it can go to the extremes, for instance, when a person does not respond to pain and extreme temperatures.
The disorder was first discovered by the occupational therapist Jean Ayres. As a neuroscientist, this woman studied the connection between sensory processing and the behavior of children with different disabilities. Ayres first called this phenomenon sensory integration (222). Occasionally, she discovered that the disorder prevented some parts of the brain from receiving information necessary for interpreting sensation correctly. She noticed that people with this condition had difficulties in proceeding sensory information and acting upon it. Ayres admitted these people had certain challenges in performing different daily tasks. It could lead to anxiety, depression, school failure, and other negative outcomes. Later researchers tried to explain the sensory integration, yet, Ayres’s study was the first in the field)
Unfortunately, doctors may be not aware of sensory processing disorder. Though the disorder is real, it is somehow hidden from others. The problem is that many health care experts are not trained to recognize sensory problems. Besides, this disorder is not recognized as a mental disorder in specific medical manuals. Therefore, the condition is often misdiagnosed. Most often it is taken for the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In fact, parents are the first people to notice that something is wrong with their children by observation of functional activities. A child who has sensory issues responds to sensory experiences disproportionally, and it may look suspiciously. A professional examination of a child’s sensitivity and developmental screening may confirm the condition. Parents may turn to such doctors as occupational therapists, psychologists, or physiotherapists. The diagnosis would be received from the use of standardized tests, questionnaires, observational scales, and free play observation. Yet, sometimes the only means to reveal the disorder is a full psychological and neurological evaluation.
Luckily, sensory processing disorder can be treated, especially when an early-intervention program is used. Treatment usually depends on the specific individual needs of every given child. The general use of treatment improves children’s skills and adjusts them to things they cannot tolerate. As the aim of SPD therapy is to involve all senses, the following methods are used. The actual treatment for sensory processing issues is called sensory integration. It consists of occupational therapy in a special games-adjusted setting called the “OT gym.” Children with sensory processing disorder may be exposed to physical listening and language therapy. However, in most cases therapists encourage children to play different games involving swinging, jumping on trampolines, games with sand and water, light-play, and scent-play. Using these techniques, therapists try to give children appropriate challenges, evoke an adaptive response, and stimulate active engagement. They teach children how to react to visual, auditory and tactile stimuli properly. Alternative kind of treatment is acupuncture, but it has little scholar coverage in the medical press. At the same time, occupational therapy for sensory processing disorder works best when it is family-centered. Each family can voice its preferences for treatment. Additionally, parents involved in cooperation with a therapist learn more about their child’s sensory challenges. They receive a great chance to learn about the methods of engaging in therapeutic activities at home and anywhere.
It is possible to treat SPD effectively when sensory symptoms are timely diagnosed and properly treated. If not treated, children and adults would experience a range of difficulties in their everyday life. Children with sensory processing disorder may suffer from different emotional, social and educational problems. These include problems with making friends, low self-esteem, and failure at school. Such children make get a reputation of being aggressive, uncooperative and uncontrollable. They may find learning difficult and have troubles coping with stress caused by not meeting sensory demands. Gradually, all that contributed to the development of depression, anxiety, aggression, and other behavioral problems. Parents can also receive bad image because other people would blame them for their children’s behavior. Further, untreated children develop into adults with SPD who face even more problems as their condition persists. Such adults may have difficulties in work, close relationships and recreation. Besides, the rates of depression increase with age. Adults with SPD may experience social isolation, underachievement, and poor self-concept. Thus, untreated sensory proceeding disorder can affect an individual’s ability to succeed in work, marriage, and social environment.
Despite all these difficulties, people who have sensory proceeding disorders can live a normal life. The truth is that these people are no worse than others. The majority of children with SPD are as intelligent as others and sometimes even intellectually gifted. All they need is to be taught how to deal with senses on their individual level. The fact that SPD is still not recognized as a disease confirms that people can live with it. Maybe they need more support and tolerance from the surrounding, but they are not hopeless. Even minimal treatment would be enough to help them better adjust to cope with their sensations and to process information better. Therefore, children with SPD would benefit most from therapy before school. A proper approach would ensure they learn to handle all kinds of situations, improve their motor skills and other abilities required for school success and other accomplishments. Given all that, children would not feel socially isolated and suffer from low esteem. Accordingly, they would move to adulthood confidently and look forward to it. As grown-ups, they will be able to succeed in marriage, work, and social environments and thus go on to a happy life.
To conclude, sensory processing disorder is a condition that affects processing information from senses. This condition can have several dimensions as people who have it may either be over-sensitive or under-sensitive. SPD affects mainly children, but when not treated properly it can persist in adulthood. The problem is that the disorder is often misdiagnosed and mistreated. The symptoms of sensory processing disorder are rather similar to those of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In particular, children with SPD can be hyperactive and react to different situations too dramatically. Few parents know that their child’s anxiety can be a result of irritation by clothing fabrics, touch, sounds, light, and pain. Unfortunately, the disorder cannot be prevented as its causes are still unclear. Nevertheless, this condition is curable. The actual treatment for sensory processing issues consists of occupational therapy in a special games-adjusted setting called the “OT gym.” Children with sensory processing disorder may also be exposed to physical listening and language therapy. Living with this disorder can be challenging, but it is not a serious disease. With some efforts, people learn how to live with it and be successful in life.