The Debate Over Sensory Processing

Jodi and Matt were mystified. At 2, their son, Paul, was behaving in ways no parenting book had described: knocking into walls, hugging them to the point of hurting, and screaming inexplicably in restaurants. He was strangely tentative when climbing or balancing on the playground equipment. Instead, he always rushed for the swings, which he loved pushing as much as he loved being pushed in.

The couple didn’t know how different their only child’s behaviors were until Paul started preschool and they got to know more children and their parents. While their pediatrician dismissed their concerns, saying that kids outgrew these things, their preschool director did not: She suggested an evaluator, who said that their little boy had sensory processing disorder or, as she called it, SPD.

She explained that SPD includes being too sensitive to some stimuli, which made loud, crowded restaurants so overwhelming they triggered meltdowns, and not sensitive enough to other input and therefore craving it, which would explain the hugging and crashing into walls, as well as his love of both swinging and pushing the swings. And he had trouble with the senses that help him “know where his body is in space,” which would account for the clumsiness and fear while climbing. She recommended occupational therapy (OT)

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