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