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The Controversy of Sensory Processing Disorder
The term Sensory Processing Disorder (also known as SPD) has been circulating more and more in the parenting community and even the news. New Republic recently published an article explaining the disorder and the controversy surrounding it:
In the last decade, tens of thousands of children have been labeled with sensory processing disorder, a once-unheard of condition which advocates liken to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents the brain from handling external stimuli and making sense of certain sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and textures. The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation, a 35-year-old research and advocacy group based in Denver, claims SPD disrupts the everyday lives of more than four million Americans.
And yet the article points out that…
For some, this is sheer quackery. There is still little consensus within the medical community on whether SPD is an actual disorder, let alone whether many popular treatments work. Last year, the SPD Foundation failed in its decade-long campaign to convince the American Psychiatric Association to include SPD in the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Even as a mom of two children labeled with Sensory Processing Disorder, I can honestly see both sides of the Sensory Processing Disorder debate. Every day I see the complexities of the “disorder” and how it can potentially be a sign or symptom of other disorders. Often the “therapies” that we use to “treat” the Sensory Processing Disorder are what should be typical childhood play. But I also echo most of what Stephanie Giese wrote about her experience with her son in her article “How I Know Sensory Processing Disorder is Real” on the Huffington Post:
I have no medical training. I am just a mom. But I’m also a teacher with a master’s degree in education that included several graduate level courses in child development. I know with certainty the difference between typical childhood behaviors and what I see exhibited by my son. This is what Sensory Processing Disorder is:
And she goes on to give examples of how Sensory Processing Disorder impacts her son and their family:
It’s toothpaste that is too spicy and ice cream that is too cold.
It’s making up excuses to avoid birthday parties because you know they will be too overwhelming, and you don’t want your child’s behavior to take the focus off of the birthday boy or girl.
So Why Do I Embrace the Sensory Processing Label?
Even with the complexities and controversy surrounding the disorder and it’s diagnosis, I am thankful to have the Sensory Processing Disorder “label” for my two kids. Here’s why…
- SPD is SOMETHING other than typical. Similar to Giese, I am “just” a mom and not a medical professional. But I am also an educated mom with a Master’s Degree and education in child development. I know that my children’s behavior goes beyond typical childhood challenges and impacts our family adversely. And when the Occupational Therapist confirmed this with the label of Sensory Processing Disorder, I knew that I wasn’t crazy or just a bad parent.
- SPD helps others take it seriously. Having the SPD label helps us to explain our challenges to others who might not understand.
- SPD gives us a community. The SPD label gives me a way to find others who understand what I’m going through as a mother and who can support me in these challenges.
- SPD helps us avoid medication. Please don’t get me wrong when I say this because I completely understand that some children do benefit from medication. However, generally, SPD is treated through alternatives such as occupational therapy, parenting techniques, and even play. So I am thankful to be finding ways to help my children before having to resort to medications. (Which is by no means out of the question if they end up needing it in the future.)
- SPD is a starting point. I also know that SPD is complex and might not be our only challenge. But it gives us a starting point for understanding our challenges and helping our children. And even linking their challenges to other potential issues.
- SPD helps my son feel better about himself. This might surprise you. But having the Sensory Processing Disorder actually HELPS my seven-year-old son feel BETTER about himself. It helps him to better understand his feelings and impulses and therefore find strategies for dealing with them. Which allows him to feel more in control and self-confident.
So while I’m careful to not let the Sensory Processing Disorder label completely define my children, I do embrace it. And use it as one tool – of many – to help me be a better parent to my unique children and their sensory needs.
[Tweet “The Sensory Processing Disorder label actually helps me be a better MOM!”]
Regardless of what others think; my children have Sensory Processing Disorder and I’m going to embrace it and use it to help them in any way I can.
More From Other Moms of Sensory Kids:
So what are your thoughts about Sensory Processing Disorder? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!