Stop Avoiding Sensory Processing Disorder and Pick It Up!

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When I walk into a room, it is hard for people not to notice that I am different from the rest of the twenty-somethings.  With a big black bag full of Sensory Tools in my hand and my nervous tics filling up the dead air space, you can’t escape from it.  But instead of facing this fact, many avoid it… or take pity on me.

This feeling of constantly being ignored or pitied makes my life a lot harder because I can’t avoid it, I have to face it everyday.

A Story About a Girl and a Coredisk.

My Coredisk

Earlier this month I had my whole family over for dinner.  This was the first family dinner we had had since I had found out about my SPD.   Everyone could notice that I was carrying a Koosh ball everywhere I went.  Everyone could see that I was sitting on a CoreDisk at the table.

SPD was there, in the room, but no one was facing it.

Until my cousins daughter (who is about two) came over to my chair and noticed my Coredisk.  I happened to be standing nearby so I moved a little closer.  She poked it with her fingers and then simply asked, “What is this you’re sitting on Netta?”

I smiled and explained, “This is a seat that I sit on.”

She continued to poke the Coredisk.  It was fun to poke because of the air and squillet inside.  Then she placed both hands on the Coredisk and picked it up.

If you have ever held a Coredisk full of squillet you will know that it is very heavy.  But despite this problem, she proceeded to pick it up off the chair and carry it over to the living room for further investigation.

Pick It Up and Carry It

Many people avoid SPD because they simply don’t understand it.  But instead of avoiding SPD, we need to pick it up.  We need to face that it is in this persons life or in our lives.  We need to stop believing that if we ignore it, it will eventually go away or that it is a reason to take pity on someone.

Remember, I am as much of a person as you are, I just have a slight disability.  That doesn’t make me unable to have a good life, to hang out with friends, and be a productive person.

Yes, SPD is hard, but people make it even harder when they don’t admit that it is there.

Instead of Pitying My SPD, Poke At It

In the story, she didn’t pull her hands away in disgust, but reached out and poked my Coredisk.  She asked questions and investigated it as much as she could.  That is exactly how we need to be about SPD.

I love it when people ask me questions about my SPD.  It shows me that they are interested in understanding it, instead of avoiding it.  We need more people to poke at SPD.  To investigate it and be interested in how it effects each person.

A big part of understanding SPD is taking the time to ask and also taking the time to share what they have learned.

However, we, who deal with SPD, are also to blame because SPD awareness starts with us.  We need to talk about it, admit that it is there, just as much as those around us.

It May Be Heavy…

Sensory Processing Disorder is difficult.  Sometimes it is hard to talk about because it is not always cheerful.  There are a lot of draw backs, restrictions, and failures in SPD, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

Just as my Coredisk was really heavy and hard to lift for a little girl, so is SPD to face.

But I was so happy for someone to admit that my Coredisk was there and for someone to be curious about it.  For someone to want to experience what I was experience.  To treat it like it is no big deal, just like we treat those who wear glasses or hearing aids.

I am learning to embrace my SPD: to stop treating it like the monster in the room, but recognize that this is a part of who I am.

I hope you all will do the same.

Sensory Toys and Sensory Tools for Sensory Processing Disorder- Part 1

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Photo from Pixaby.com

Intro: What are Sensory Tools and Sensory Toys?

For many people, when they hear the word Sensory Tool or Sensory Toy, they begin to think, “that sounds weird.”

When in reality Sensory Tools and Toys are simply things that help stimulate or calm the sensations in our brain.

Remember, SPD is a communication problem between our brain and our senses.   As I said in an earlier post, there are three types or forms of SPD.  The sensory seeker, the sensory over-responsive (overloaded with their senses), and the sensory under-responsive.

All three benefit from Sensory Tools/Toys, because Sensory Tools/Toys help each type specifically.

For those who are more sensory seeking, Sensory Tools/Toys give them a way to get that sensory stimulation they crave in a productive and safe way.

For those who are more sensory over-responsive, Sensory Tools/Toys create soothing stimulation and help them focus better on the world around them.

For the ones who are under-responsive, Sensory Tools/Toys creates stimulation to their senses and helps awaken their senses in a productive and simple way.

But do Sensory Tools and Toys really help?

Many people believe the lie that SPD is all in your head and that the things that are called Sensory Tools or Toys are simply a marketing ploy by the toy and therapy companies to get our money.  They ask, “Do sensory Tools and Toys really help?  Can’t you live without them?”

My answer is, yes, we could live without THAT Sensory Tool or Toy, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t use something else?

We all have our little things that help us calm down or sooth that fidgety side of ourselves.  Some doodle while in a meeting.  Some twirl their hair while they are waiting in a doctors office.  Some feel the edge of a book while they read it.  Others like to fidget with their clothing, chew on straws, or sway back and forth while on the phone.  We all have our little things, and you know what?… those are simple Sensory Tools.

With or without SPD, everyone requires some sort of sensory impute every day, but we who struggle with SPD have difficulty controlling or directing our senses in a good way.  We need more complex Sensory Tools and yes, Sensory Tools and Toys help us live a better life.

For me, as soon as I started using them in my daily routine, I saw an improvement in my focus, my ability to cope in stressful situations, and, over all, my life has improved because of them!  I hope it will be the same for you!

 


 

So lets dig in:

These are a few Sensory Tools/Toys that have helped me.  There are lot’s of Sensory stuff out there, so it would be impossible to list them all here.  I use these almost every day and I strongly support each one in their effectiveness.

Sensory Chews!

This is me with my Sensory Chew... which I affectionately call Chew-bacca.

This is me with my Sensory Chew… which I affectionately call Chew-bacca.

I love my Sensory Chew.  I have found it useful in the car to relieve that pent up energy/nervousness that my senses create in my brain.  They are also some of the most inexpensive Sensory Tools/Toys that you will ever buy, so there really is no reason not to buy one.  Be sure to look through them all and pick the texture that you would prefer to chew on.  I picked one with bumps, because I love feeling my teeth with my tongue.

I like to keep it clean by washing it with my tooth brush and tooth paste every morning and keeping it in a plastic or a cloth bag.  They are also strongly built and will last for a long time!  Find Sensory Chews on Amazon.com.  

Ark Therapeutics also has some amazing Chews, so be sure to check them out.

Another option are chew-able necklaces and chew-able wrist bands if you or your child need something that resembles real life objects. Remember, a necklace chew may be a little heavy around the neck.  I struggle with heavy things around my neck, so keep that in mind when purchasing a chew.  Simply type the names in Amazon or Google search engines.

Koosh Balls!

LOVE Koosh Balls!

LOVE Koosh Balls!

I LOVE my Koosh ball! Squeeze it, toss it, stretch the tiny plastic hairs, wiggle it in your hands… such a great sensory experience and a great way to direct those senses in a good way.  Be sure to check your local Dollar store first, before ordering from an online site.  Find Koosh Balls on Amazon.com

Two other options are Puffer Balls and stretchy animals, which can give a good sensory experience to the hands and arms, but be sure to check these all out first before making a big purchase, because preferences may very.  I personally hate the feel of stretchy animals and puffer balls, but I adore Koosh balls.  So it really depends on what you prefer.

CoreDisks!

My CoreDisk!

My CoreDisk!

This Sensory Tool is a bit on the pricey side of the spectrum, but is well worth the money.  This little disk helps all types of Sensory Processing Disorder.  If you need to wiggle?  You can wiggle.  If you need to rock gently or sway to calm your senses?  You can do that easily.  If you need your senses stimulated?  It will help activate those senses.

I use my Core Disk on hard chairs and I take it to every restaurant I go to.  I love that it feels cool underneath me.  How it is so easy to rock or wiggle on the bubble of air and how it “hugs” my butt slightly, giving me a feeling of security.  When you get, be sure not to pump too much air in, other wise it won’t as soft nor as easy to wiggle on.

Two other options that are more pricey are Hokki Stools and Balls chairs.

Find the Hokki Stool Here.  Find Ball Chairs on Amazon.com and find Core Disks on Amazon.com too.

These Sensory tools/toys may feel funny at first, but in the end they will become your best friends!

 Seat Belt Pads!

Me and my Seat Belt Memory Foam lap cushion.

Me and my Seat Belt Memory Foam lap cushion.

I used to hate the feeling of the seat belts across my lap, until now!  This is perfect for relieving that irritation and help make car rides more SPD friendly.  It is made out of Memory Foam and has strong Velcro straps for easy attaching and detaching.  Find this Seat Belt Memory Foam Pad and other seat belt pads such as shoulder pads on Amazon.com

Lap Pads!

My Lap Pad

My Lap Pad

I love my Lap Pad, which weighs about 4lb.  You can get or make them as high as 6lb, but I am so skinny, I don’t need it too heavy.

I love how it gives my senses a feeling of security and helps steady me.  It makes me feel like I won’t float away and it is nice and cool, which soothes my senses when I am excessively warm.

This lap pad was home made.  I used Corn as a weight, which I know your not technically suppose to do, but I am not planning on washing it ever, so I think I will be fine.

You can find a pattern here.  For a Lap Pad size, cut down on the size and do the same.  Use a scale to measure out the weight.  Should be 4-6lb.  Then fill it evenly with the pellets.


I am still learning and still discovering new and exciting Sensory Tools and Toys, which is why this is part one of hopefully many future blogs down the road.

Don’t be afraid to use Sensory Tools and Toys, SPD friends!  This world is a crazy place and we need all the help we can get.

Do you have a Sensory Tool or Toy which has been really helpful, but I didn’t include it in this post?  Please feel free to comment below your experiences with them and maybe I will include them in my next blog post about Sensory Tools and Toys.

I Am Not a “Normal” Kid- Growing Up With Sensory Processing Disorder and Not Knowing It.

Me at age 6 in a Ball Pit

The first thing that I said when I found out I had SPD was, “You mean I’m not crazy?!”

When I was a child I often thought I was going mad… literally.  Things that seemed normal to other people were completely overwhelming for me because felt like I was under constant attack from all my senses.  I felt like screaming, running away, anything to escape the enemy that surrounded me.

But that wasn’t madness, that was Sensory Processing Disorder.

It’s true a lot of people think that those who have SPD are crazy, but SPD is a real condition.

Sensory Processing Disorder is basically our brain having communication problems with our senses.  Our brain misunderstands “normal” sensations as being offensive, alarming, and/or painful and reacts in a fight or flight response.

Activities like going grocery shopping, eating at a restaurant, or going to a local fair is frightening because we take in every sensation, 150%.

I am twenty-one years old and I have lived my whole life with SPD, but when I was kid no one around me knew it even existed.

I remember as a kid being terrified of Dodge Ball.  Balls flying at you, people yelling and running around you… it was like being in a war zone for me.

That’s not normal to be scared of Dodge Ball.  Sure you can not like playing the game, but to be scared of it?

So instead of joining in with my friends, I stood on the sidelines feeling alone and strange.

My life was confusing, discouraging, and my senses were stunted because I didn’t know I had SPD.

It is alarming how many people know nothing about SPD.  When people are asked about Autism, MS, or Down Syndrome, most have some idea of what they are or have at least heard of them.

But ask them if they have heard of SPD and you’ll get a blank stare.

This is sad because lack of awareness means that there are people out there, like me, who don’t even know that this is an issue in their lives.  Without that knowledge, we unknown SPDers suffer from loneliness because we think we are the only ones who experience life this way, when in reality there is a great community of SPD peeps who experience the exact same things as you do.

SPD is something that can be and needs to be treated, but we can’t treat something that we don’t know about or choose to ignore.

I wish I had known that I had SPD before I was twenty-one.  If I had gone through proper therapy when I was a kid and had used sensory tools to help my SPD, maybe I wouldn’t have to wear noise canceling headphones in restaurants.  Maybe I wouldn’t have such low self-esteem?

But I am not saying all this to make you feel sorry for me.  No, I am saying this because it is never too late or too early to start facing SPD.  We need to be aware of SPD symptoms, seek understanding, and occupational therapy.

If you have a child, keep an eye on him/her and don’t be afraid of the possibility of SPD being a part of your child’s life.  He/she may not be able to tell you what he/she is feeling, but that doesn’t make SPD any less of a possibility!

Don’t allow another person or child to be like me.  Raise awareness about SPD today!

Adults With Sensory Processing Disorder- You Are Not Alone

Sad Picture for Blog 2  On the 4th of July, I ate half of my dinner alone, outside of a restaurant.  My family was inside looking out at me as I wore my noise canceling headphones and tried to calm my nerves after a near panic attack.

Why can’t I be normal?  I kept asking myself.  Why am I freaking out because of an overload in my senses?

Forcing back the tears that welled up in my eyes, everything in my heart wanted someone to be there to say, “it’s Ok.  You’re not alone,” but no one came. I don’t say this to make you all feel sorry for me.  No, I am saying this because I feel in my heart that I am not the only one who has been in this situation. Those who have Sensory Processing Disorder, especially Adults, tend to feel out of place, overwhelmed, and often alone.

Well, know now SPD adults, that you are not alone.

I understanding how heavy the weight can be.  How you sometimes feel like screaming and running far away, but there is no where to run.  How the world wears you out so much that you often wonder how you can get up the next morning because you are so overwhelmed with what you are handling now.

It would be a lie if I said that dealing with Sensory Processing Disorder is easy.  It’s NOT!

Imagine that you are on a battle field.  Bullets are flying, bombs are bursting, people are shouting, and many other horrors of war are all around you.  Now, take all that stress and put it into real life situations.  THAT is what it is like for us SPDers.

It is as if we are constantly fighting… trying to beat back the sensory overload.  Trying to keep a meltdown at bay.

Yes, sometimes I have the desire to fight; but we all have bad days, right?  Days when we don’t feel like fighting anymore.  When we just want to be “normal” (if there is such a thing as “normal”).  To be someone who doesn’t have to leave the table because she’s about to have a panic attack and can’t think straight.

Part of embracing SPD is excepting the fact that sometimes my senses will win.

But remember, fellow SPD friends, that this isn’t your fault.  If you use all your sensory tools and you still have a meltdown, don’t beat yourself up over that fact and think that you have failed.   I’ve done this too many times in my life and it doesn’t do any good. We just need to understand that sometimes the battle gets out of control and there is nothing we can do about it.

Even the best Generals can’t win a battle if the odds are too high.

So remember, you are not alone.  I know what it is like for the battle to get out of control and to loose the sensory fight.  But instead of getting upset over the lost battle, learn that you are human and that you need to cut yourself some slack.

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder- I Am Not Crazy?

Picture from Pixaby.com

Image yourself in a room that is completely empty.  No colors. No sounds. Dim lights.  No one else and nothing else but you.

It would be quiet and peaceful, wouldn’t it?

Now, imagine that someone brought a child into the room who was screaming his guts out.  Then a group of four people come in, all talking all at once.  A dog  starts barking, and the room was suddenly filled with a very bright light.  The walls suddenly burst into a bright green and pink color, and someone is poking you with a sharp stick.

Overwhelming isn’t it?

That is what a world with Sensory Processing Disorder is like, only towards normal things that we see everyday.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration Dysfunction is basically a malfunction between the brain and the nervous system that responds or controls your senses.  Each person with SPD is different.

Some are over responsive, which means they may find touch or physical interaction painful or annoying.  They may find noises or certain lights overwhelming or painful.  They may even find some smells, tastes or textures irritating.

Others are under responsive, meaning that they don’t respond to touch or pain.  They don’t respond to situations or seem to be lazy.

Then there are the people who can’t get enough sensory input.  They crave touch, taste and texture.  They are always fidgeting and moving about.  Their minds are constantly going and going (like the little energizer bunny) and they are often loud or crave noises.

Now, these are just a few of the many facets of SPD, if you want more information on this click here!

Most people have a unique mixture of each of these, but most tend to be more one than the others.

For example, I tend to be over responsive.  I am very sensitive to light, sound, movement, visual stimuli and find certain textures disgusting (like those Puffer Balls… yuck).  My brain is constantly in overload and because of this problem I am constantly trying to calm my nerves.  The way I do this is by feeding my craving for sensory input side.

This side leans more towards the last example.  I find things like playing with a Koosh Ball, sitting on a Core Disk, listening to music, and feeling rough or bumpy textures help me cope with my over responsive side of me.  I am also very fidgety, have nervous ticks up the wazoo, and my mind is constantly going all the time!

But I also have a few facets from the under responsive side too.  I have been considered a lazy person in my past -an idea that is definitely not true.  Sometimes I won’t realize when I have had my foot or my arm in a bad position for too long before it begins to hurt.  I am constantly dropping things when I am overwhelmed and I have horrible handwriting.

You can understand now why I would think I was going crazy.  The world is very overwhelming and my brain just can’t keep up with it.

What’s A Meltdown?

An SPD meltdown is basically a fight or flight reaction in our brains.  Our senses are in overload and we respond as if we are being attacked.  It’s not our fault, it’s just how we’re wired and how our brains react.

Remember the above mental picture of the room?  What would it be like to live like that all the time.  That when ever you go out of your house or the minute you wake up in the morning, you are instantly flung into that overwhelming room, whether in small amounts or big amounts. You too would be prone to have meltdowns too, wouldn’t you?

However, each person with SPD responds to a meltdown in a different way.

Most Adults don’t react in a violent or unappropriated manner when they are reacting to an SPD overload.   Instead most adults meltdowns involve Panic attacks, Hyperventilation, Brain Fog, Shaking of Limbs, etc.  SPD meltdowns for Children are a different matter and take on various forms, all very bad.

Basically, a meltdown it is something that we SPDers prefer to avoid.

That’s where Sensory Tools come in.  We use sensory tools to help minimize or create stimuli to help our body calm down and just as each person has different triggers, each person has different Sensory tools that work best for them.

So when someone you know is having an SPD meltdown, or using Sensory Tools to prevent one, just be sympathetic, ask if there is something that can be removed from the room which would help create a good environment and, above all, don’t call the police or the hospital unless you
ask the person or parent first!

Why Can’t You Just Ignore It?

Many people tend to look at people with SPD and think, “Why can’t you just push through it instead of having a meltdown?”

Remember the room?  A non-SPD person would probably be able to handle the baby crying, or the people talking, or the bright lights, if that was the only thing in the room.  But put together, even the most laid back person would become overwhelmed.

For people with SPD, it is like our brain is an empty glass.   If there is a loud fan, a little water is added.  If a baby starts crying, more water.  If bright lights are shinning down on us or a lot of people are walking around us… even more water. Then if you have any internal issues, such as digestive problems, headaches, or even hormonal problems… lots of water is added.  Until finally you run out of glass and it starts pouring out onto the table… that’s when a meltdown happens.

Yes, we can ignore our SPD a little, but eventually there is only so much you can ignore before your body kicks in and starts panicking!

It is better to realize the symptoms and treat the symptoms before they spill out and create a meltdown. That’s why realizing the presence of SPD and finding coping tools will help make your life better.

Overwhelming?: Yes.  But A Mixed Blessing?: Yes Indeed.

Yes, living in a world with Sensory Processing Disorder is hard and humbling.  I hate admitting that I have limitations, but there is a blessing hidden in the muck of SPD.

Because we are sensitive, we see the world in a different way.

We can’t just go through life not seeing the hard things or the beautiful things.  Our senses, though sometimes a problem, allows us to be sensitive to things that lots of people pass by.

I am just discovering this new world of SPD.  It’s really interesting for me to look back at my life and see that this has been an underlying problem for a really long time.

A lot of people look at me and think, “wow, she needs to be fixed.

My answer is no, I don’t need to be fixed.

This is how God has made me and because of my SPD, I am more humble, more aware of Christs presence, and I am able to reach out to those who the world passes by.

Don’t feel sorry for me, but instead realize that this is who I am and who God has made me to be.  I would never think you needed to be fixed because you hate Cabbage or because you wear glasses or hearing aids.

Yes, I am  little more broken than the “normal person”, but let’s face it, we’re all broken in one way or another.  Instead of feeling sorry for me, realize that this is a part of who I am.

I am learning to embrace SPD, I pray that you all will do the same.

What do you think?  How can you be more sensitive to someone with SPD?  What are some questions about SPD that I can help you with?  Please comment below your stories, questions, and/or comments.  I would love to hear from you!