I was recently asked, “do you think everyone has sensory issues?”
My answer was ‘yes, probably!’ But of course, that’s not the full story.
Sensory processing is happening all the time
We all process sensory input during the day, it’s how we interact with the world. We receive a sensory stimulus and we have a response. Sometimes we are aware of the inputs we receive, and others happen more ‘behind the scenes’.
When you are having a conversation with someone you are processing auditory input, doing this allows you to know what they said, how they said it, and then have a response.
At the grocery store when scanning the shelves for your favorite brand of toothpaste, you are processing visual input.
When you recognize that you need to use the restroom, that sensation you receive is from your interoceptive system. Your body is aware of the input, and you go use the bathroom.
The point is receiving, processing and interpreting sensory input is how we all interact with our environment. The challenge comes when our system doesn’t process the input we receive accurately.
But do we all really have SPD?
Well, I think we all have sensory preferences.
- You may not like the way a certain blanket feels – tactile input
- You may not like the texture of certain food – oral input
- You may love going to the gym and getting a good workout in because it makes you feel ‘good’ – proprioceptive input
- You may get annoyed when things are too loud- auditory input
- You may feel overwhelmed in crowds or busy stores (Ikea does it for me!) – visual input
I think we can all relate to this. And I’m sure as most of you read the above examples, you thought of a few of your own.
Now, most of us have many different sensory preferences, but the difference is whether these sensory preferences interfere with daily life. Whether they cause behavioral issues, emotional struggles, or make it so you can’t engage in a certain activity. When the sensory input you receive affects you in these ways, you are now experiencing what may be labeled as SPD.
Understanding that we all interact with the sensory world, that we all take in, process, and respond to sensory information, and identifying our own sensory preferences and challenges can help us to be better caregivers to our children.
The more we understand this the better equipped we are to help our sensory kids.
When you understand what they are going through, and can identify for them what may be the challenge or issue, you can help!
You can offer headphones because you recognize how loud it is. You can plan to have quiet time after busy overwhelming situations. You can engage them in fun, preferred tactile activities to help them desensitize to touch and work to tolerate the feel of their clothing better.
So, do I think we all have SPD?
No, not really. But as you can see we all are in the same boat.
When we understand that we are all experiencing the same sensory world, some of us just more or less than others, we can offer a better helping hand. We can start to sympathize more with what our sensory kiddos, who may not be able to verbalize their feelings, are going through.