Monday, January 16, 2012

What is SPD?

I think it is very important that I outline what SPD is and how it affects children (and adults).  Since it is the main issue dealing with children with feeding difficulties.

Firstly, SPD is "Sensory Processing Disorder".  It is a complex disorder of the brain that can affect both adults and children.  What is means is that children you have SPD can misintepret everyday sensory information.  This information comes in forms of sound, touch and movement.   Due to the lack of, or overload of information, they may seek out intense sensory experiences or they are unaware of what sensations they should be feeling and what other people experience.  It also goes hand in hand with sensory-motor issues such as poor muscle development, delayed motor skills, clumsiness and stuttering.

I have mentioned before that there are eight senses which we rely on to get our sensory information, touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing, balance, body and awareness.  To be able to "sensory process", we need to have the ability to organise and interpret the sensory information we receive.  This should be an automatic thing, but children who have SPD cannot do this.  Their brains interpret the information they receive differently, and thus they react differently.  

Emma, in regards to her feeding, is over-responding with her senses.  It means she is more sensitive to some forms of sensory stimulation than the majority of other people.   She uses the "flight" response to help avoid sensations, such as withdrawing from food items, constantly washing her hands, not looking or smelling food, and definitely not tasting it.  

Due to this over-responding, she does have sensory craving.  Hence her addiction to eating salt, and licking her salt and vinegar delites.  Other people can call this sensory seeking, and I know that this is quite common, especially amongst prems.  It is also very common in children who are under-responding with their senses.  It means they can appear self-absorbed, do not initiate contact with other children, can appear withdrawn and are very under-responsive to tactile stimulation.  So due to this, they can also seek more sensory stimulation in other ways.  

It seems that in Emma's feeding, she is a bit of a puzzle because she is both over and under responding with her taste craving.  

The other main issue, which I talked about in previous posts, was the posture.  If children have poor muscle development, poor core strength or not alot of energy, they can find it difficult to do functional tasks, such as sitting at a table eating.  Something that all of us take for granted.  

So, while Emma is at the STAR clinic, they will be focusing on her SPD and showing her coping techniques so she will not seek sensory stimulation outside the boundaries of what is normal, and also build her core strength.

We had a very good day at the clinic, of which I will outline in my next post.

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