Growing up with sensory processing disorder

For Victoria, challenges include an oversensitivity to touch. As a child, she refused to hold her mother’s hand, and she continues to only wear soft and fuzzy fabrics because anything tight or scratchy agitates her. She also has vestibular challenges that make her crave constant movement, and she is hypersensitive to sound at certain pitch levels.

When Victoria was in grade school, fire alarms caused her physical pain.

“I used to be terrified of going to school just in case a fire drill went off,” Victoria told “I was young, so I didn’t know what was going on other than it was loud and painful. In order to get away from the overloaded stimuli, I used to hide in closets at school in my kindergarten classroom.”

While there is no known cause or cure for SPD, it’s often managed through occupational therapy (OT) using a sensory integration approach (OT-SI).

OT sessions typically begin with an initial assessment including a sensory challenge questionnaire to uncover which senses are problematic, followed by sensory-modulating activities to reduce the patient’s over-reactivity to sensory input. For children, this can include wheelbarrow walking, arts and crafts, or resting with weighted blankets. But having playtime in sensory-type gyms is not always appropriate for older children and teens, so different tactics are needed as they age.

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