So last week I wrote about my experience with Dysgraphia (a co-morbid condition associated with Tourette Syndrome), and this week I figured I would write about my experience with Sensory Processing Disorder. Below are two short paragraphs that help to define and describe SPD that I found on the SPD Foundation’s website.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as “sensory integration dysfunction”) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly.
Sensory Processing Disorder can affect people in only one sense — for example, just touch or just sight or justmovement–or in multiple senses. One person with SPD may over-respond to sensation and find clothing, physical contact, light, sound, food or other sensory input to be unbearable. Another might under-respond and show little or no reaction to stimulation, even pain or extreme hot and cold.
The first signs of SPD showed up for me right around the same time as my first tics showed up, when I was 5 years old. I very very sensitive to any type of touch. I didn’t like people to play with my hair, brush my hair or touch me on certain parts of my body.
When people tried to touch me too much, I would always protest and shake them off me the best I could. Sometimes I threw fits about this! For me my main sensitivity is touch.
Another thing I could not stand was wearing tights! My legs were very sensitive, and I refused to wear tights or pantie hoes. When my mom put tights on me, it felt like my skin was crawling and I just felt overwhelmed all over.
I also never played with chalk because the sensation bothered me too much, and I never touched paper or anything dry after my hands had been wet because of the sensation.
Some other things that bothered me as a young child because of my SPD were the sensation of touching dirty cars, walking on garage floors either barefoot or with shoes, styrofoam, the sound of chalk, the sound of department stores and the high-pitched lights that only kids can here, the sound or feeling of hangers scooting on racks, metal rubbing together, and the sound or feel of mechanical pencils.
I am sure there was much more than just these things, but at the moment these are what I am remembering.
When I went to see my occupational therapist for my Dysgraphia, my mom told her about my sensory difficulties and she started treating me for SPD via Sensory Integration Therapy. She had me rub a little plastic brush all over my legs, which I absolutely hated!
And she had me play with certain toys or play on structures in her room in ways that were supposed to help increase my threshold of sensory tolerance. Even though I absolutely hated when she forced me to rub the plastic brush on my legs or when she did it herself, it was all therapy for the SPD that I needed at the time.
Today, my SPD is much improved and I can tolerate a lot more sensory input and information than I used to be able to. I can now put up with wearing tights and being touched even though at times I really don’t like it!
I still cannot stand the feeling or sound of chalk, the feeling of touching paper after my hands have been wet, the feeling or sound of styrofoam, the feeling of walking barefoot on the garage floor or basement floors, the sound of squeaking tennis shoes, the sound of mechanical pencils, and loud noises, and much more.
So that is my SPD in a nutshell! Right now, a fire alarm in my house is malfunctioning and is making a high-pitched sound every minute or so. It is driving my SPD crazy nuts, and my ears hurt from it!
My head feels like it is very sensitive right now and overwhelmed by the noise. Hopefully it will stop soon, but my parents say they can’t get someone out to fix it until tomorrow. I am trying my best to ignore it, but it is just so darn painful to listen to.