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    Posted October 15, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Raising a special needs child

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    Sensory Processing Disorder


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Stay-at-home mom Bethany Johansen is focused on raising her special needs toddler and her daughters. "Having SPD means seeing the world differently with your child. You have different goal milestones than other parents. You endure a lot of criticism from on lookers who don't understand why your child is crying or acting hysterical to what is generally a normal situation for most kids," she said.
    - slmas12, CNN iReport producer

    It's time we had a discussion about Sensory Processing Disorder. What is it? How does it occur? Do you know someone with it? Do you yourself have it and don't know it yet?

    Imagine a world where, as a child, not holding onto your parent's hand when you go outside can literally paralyze you in fear. Imagine you are driving down the road, windows are down, sun is shining - but the wind on your face feels like a thousand needles. Imagine not being able to wear socks cause it feels like your feet are being suffocated and you can't wear certain other clothes because they feel like Brillo pads. You can't sit in that chair, you have to sit in this one or else you will completely melt down. Imagine you are in a restaurant. People are talking around you, music is playing, and someone across the table asks you a question and suddenly, you feel so overwhelmed by all the combined sounds that you want to jump out of your skin. This is a day in the life of someone with SPD.

    My daughters were born early at 31 weeks. Things were going as well as could be expected. They spent their first month in the quiet, low lighted NICU. They were doing well. Then they came home. The sensory overload they experienced from the drive home, the lights, the sounds all combined and caused their bodies to go into gastrointestinal shock. They started having reflux issues. They started choking and ended up needing apnea monitors. We didn't understand it at the time, but this was just the beginning.

    You have kids who are anxious, emotional, picky, particular. Then you have kids with SPD. Whether it be due to prenatal drug exposure, autism disorders, or like our girls, being born premature, it's important to start intervention services as soon as you suspect something is amiss. SPD kids need to be taught, as early on as possible, how to appropriately respond to situations that overwhelm them. Otherwise, they are left to figure out themselves how to self cope. This may include repetitive behaviors, or emotional outbursts. It's not necessarily a behavior problem manifesting, it could literally be your child experiencing sensory turmoil. They may not understand why you are getting upset at them. They may not understand why they are crying about it either. They don't understand why this situation is painful to them, yet no one else. They may say to you - my body just wants to cry...if this is your child, ask questions, seek the council of an occupational therapist. Don't be quick to judge if you see another child acting out in public. Moms of SPD kids need your support and patience, not your criticism.

    If your child is diagnosed with SPD, be their advocate for special education services and therapies. They may need more time to acclimate to new environments, new teachers, and changing schedules. They may function better in an environment that allows for slow transitions, a 'safe place' to go when they feel overwhelmed, and consistent routine. You may find that after special testing, other diagnoses come forth. Child anxiety is usually a symptom, not the final diagnoses. The good news is, that with proper support, understanding, and general maturity, many of these issues they experience can be greatly improved upon. Exercise patience with academic achievements and understand that these goals have a different measurement for children with SPD. If your child managed to get on the bus without a meltdown this morning, that was a victory in and of itself. Celebrate those victories and everything else will fall in place in time.
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