Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is essentially a neurological condition that can impair the sensory functioning skills of both children and adults. People with SPD (there are varying degrees of the condition) misinterpret everyday sensory information such as touch, sound and movement.
In general, people with SPD experience their world in either a hypersensitive or hyposensitive way:
- Hypersensitive SPD is when people seek to avoid sensory input because they are unable to tolerate bright lights and loud noises. They may also refuse to wear certain types of clothing because of how it feels on their skin.
- Hyposensitive SPD is when people actively seek sensory input. They may have a constant need to touch people even when it’s not socially acceptable, or love jumping, bumping and crashing activities for the sheer sensory experience.
Sensory issues can cause extreme behaviours. There may be dramatic mood swings in reaction to a change in the environment. A child might be fine in a quiet setting with a calm adult, but in a shopping centre filled with people, noise and lights (sensory overload), they may be unable to cope and have a meltdown.
How is SPD triggered?
Given the varying levels and types of SPD between individuals, our comments here are general in nature. We always recommend a professional diagnosis. That said, because it is a relatively common condition in both adults and children there has been much research on how SPD ‘functions’, which typically points to the operation of the brain and nervous system.
In simple terms, the brain and nervous system receive input from body parts as well as from the outside world. The central nervous system transmits messages throughout the body – so it functions a little like a computer system. These messages communicate functions such as muscle movement, coordination, learning, memory, emotion, behaviour and even thought.
A breakdown or malfunction in one part of the system can affect other functions of the system.
When it comes to the brain’s contribution to SPD, the brain does not process or organise the flow of sensory impulses in a way that provides precise information when there is a sensory processing issue. The way it processes sounds, sights, vision, tastes, smells, touches, pressure, and movement is unreliable and inaccurate. Because of this, learning can be difficult and those with SPD have difficulty coping with the constant flow of daily sensory inputs.
So, what can you do?
The good news is that there are many tools and techniques that can help people with SPD and their carers. These are targeted to calming and concentration outcomes. Over time, they have a remarkably positive impact on the level and intensity of an individual’s SPD.
Multi-sensory tools (often called toys) can be a vital and effective part in the treatment of sensory disorders in both children and adults alike.
For example, those that are under-responsive to sensation (hyposensitive) often need to feel intense outside sensations like texture, touch, pressure and speed. Sensory tools can be used as to help them calm and focus their attention. They can also help with self-regulation and even decrease stress.
These toys/tools have now been recognised internationally as truly effective solutions to managing SPD in adults and children. As important, they take the pressure off carers, allowing them more respite time.
NADO and sensory tools
As part of NADO’s commitment to providing services and support that meet the needs and personal goals of people with disability, their families and carers, we are pleased to announce that we will be carrying some of the very best sensory tools to improve the lives of those with SPD as well as those who care for them.
Some of these toys will include the Moluk designed Bilibo and Oogie, known internationally for their simple, innovative and tactile design that can keep children with SPD focused for hours on end. There will also be a range of Neptune sleeping blankets. These are weighted blankets specifically designed to offer sensory calmness in or out of bed.
With warmers, fidget toys and balance equipment, our goal is to provide appropriate and successful toy/tool options across the SPD spectrum. To ensure we are carrying the right toys, we are trialling them to ensure their suitability. Indeed, recent feedback from one of our trials was from a mother who noted (on the Bilibo range):
“I recently used the Bilibo seat and my daughter and I love it. My daughter is on the spectrum and highly sensory. Even an activity of watching television ends up with her jumping all over the lounge room. But with the Bilibo seat she can spin and rock as she pleases in the one spot to get her sensory needs met. Highly recommended for any child that can’t sit still.” – Casey
We would love to hear your experience too! Have you engaged with or used sensory toys recently? Which ones? How affective were they? Your feedback can help guide our selection process.
As always, reach out and contact us anytime. We actively encourage feedback and are always open to suggestions and comments!
Come and see what NADO has to offer at the Nepean Disability Expo, Friday and Saturday, September 14 and 15 at Penrith Panthers’ Exhibition Marquee. Register HERE to attend this FREE event hosted by 4community, the social impact advisory advancing the impact of other organisations and increasing access to the right products and services for people with disability.