Most people have heard of sensory processing disorders- those kids that suffer with being overly sensitive to certain fabrics or textures of food. Their aversion to those feelings can send them into a panic or a tantrum. Their parents have to learn how to adjust their diet and lifestyle to this sensory processing disorder (SPD).
But, after finally making a doctors appointment for my sons strange behavior, I learned that there’s another SPD, that is the exact opposite of the SPD that I knew about. The SPD that makes a child avoid certain textures is hypersensitivity, but there’s also a SPD called hyposensitivity where a child will crave certain feelings and textures.
So, what does hyposensitivity look like? I’ll explain my sons behavior. My son is 3 years old and we often call him “wild,” “rambunctious,” “fearless” and while those things alone don’t necessarily call for a SPD diagnosis, they are some of the red flags.
- My son seems to have a high pain tolerance; he loves to wrestle and horseplay with his dad.
- He is fearless and seems to enjoy falling down and doing things that most 3 year olds would be hurt from.
- He is typically a little too rough with his sisters and likes to squeeze them too hard or hit.
- He is nearly compulsive about putting things in his mouth- his blanket, toys, random objects. There are no limits on what he puts in his mouth. He will take his blanket and cram as much of it into his mouth as he can and we’ve been unsuccessful in breaking him from this habit.
- The boy is obsessed with gum!
- He seems to be magnetized to mud and water to the point where he cannot stay out of it, even when he knows it will get him in trouble.
- Almost daily, he will plug the bathroom sink and let it fill with water so he can play and splash in it (when he’s supposed to be washing his hands).
- His tantrums seem to be a little over the top for his age, and he will often do things that hurt (like pulling aggressively on his arms or kneeing the wall). He will spit and scream as loud as possible (it’s a great time!).
- He is constantly diving into the couch or the floor.
- He is constantly running and making loud noises.
- He moves constantly while he’s asleep, appearing restless even when he’s tired.
- Bed time is a nightmare.
As you can imagine, some of these behaviors had me incredibly frustrated and feeling like I must be doing something wrong. Why can’t he listen?! Why won’t he stay out of the dogs water bowl on the way to the car?! He’s at the age where he knows when something is bad, but he does it anyway. So, what do I do??
I wish I would’ve made the appointment with his pediatrician sooner because she instantly realized that he had this SPD, which is also called “sensory seeking.” After another evaluation by a specialist, his diagnosis was confirmed and it was like someone finally understood what was going on!
There are several recommendations for kids with this type of SPD that can help them with their daily lives (and yours, too).
- Provide a sensory diet. This isn’t an actual food diet, but rather a scheduled amount of time each day where your kiddo can get the sensory overload that they are craving. This means scheduling activities throughout the day, such as, playing with Play-Doh, stress balls, sand, water, finger paint, trampoline time, jumping, running, etc.
- Invest in a weighted blanket. While a lot of adults swear by weighted blankets to help with anxiety, kids who are sensory seeking love the feel of a weighted blanket. The deep pressure of the blanket helps to calm them and gives them the sensory input that they are craving. It helps with sleep, too!
- Add a noise machine to their room. This addition helped tremendously with my sons bedtime habits. The addition of the noise machine and weighted blanket allowed him to sleep better and he stopped waking up throughout the night. He also seems to be more relaxed at bedtime and the bedtime struggle is more typical for a kid his age now.
- Add a light of some sort to their room for bedtime. The visual stimulation from watching something like a lava lamp or a diffuser that changes colors can also be soothing for a sensory seeker and help to calm them down for bedtime.
- Invest in some sensory toys. You can find tons of sensory toys on Amazon to use indoors on those cold or rainy days when going outside (a sensory seekers paradise) isn’t an option.
My sons SPD diagnosis is such a sigh of relief. The therapist that evaluated him assured me that his behavior isn’t from just being “bad,” but rather something he can’t control. He can’t help but dive into that mud puddle when I just told him not to. He can’t help but be destructive when he is craving a sensory input. His diagnosis, to me, isn’t a burden but a gateway into understanding how his little brain works and how I can accommodate him. If I need him to focus on something, better get some sensory input in beforehand. If I need him to sleep better, make changes to his bedtime routine and setup. The SPD diagnosis has been a wake up call in my life as a mom and I’m now educated in how to create a more peaceful home life for my family.