Creative Child

The Misunderstood Child: Sensory Processing 101

by Sarah Lyons

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Stephanie Beaudry, mom of two children with SPD, says, “When trying to explain that my son’s hyperactivity or clumsiness is due to SPD, we get told ‘Oh it’s just his age’ but it’s actually because his nervous system doesn’t respond as it should in certain situations.” SPD may cause motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, or other impacts if not treated effectively.

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SPD does create challenges for families, but there is treatment available for kids who struggle with it. “We had a fabulous occupational therapist that helped my son. She gave us tools and gave him permission to figure out what worked for him and what didn’t,” says Joy Alsup, mom of four. “He has a high need for tight, long hugs and we understand that this is what helps him. It’s a huge priority for us.”

With the help of an occupational therapist, kids with SPD can find tools that help them balance sensory input. The Sensory Smarts website suggests activities such as swinging, wearing a weighted vest, pushing or pulling heavy objects across the room, or jumping on a trampoline, depending on your child’s sensory needs. Many of these activities are fun for the child and can be integrated into playtime at home.

“The therapy helps more than just their physical strengths but also their emotional strengths,” says Beaudry. “When my daughter first started therapy, she was extremely shy. She wouldn’t even talk to children her own age when they approached her. Now, four months later, she is a social butterfly.”

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An occupational therapist’s main goal is to educate parents about SPD and give families tools they can use to help the child progress at home. Although families that deal with SPD may have struggles with things other people see as “normal” activities, many parents find hope in their child’s progress and support from other parents dealing with this disorder. “One thing I have learned after experiencing our journey is that I am not alone. There are so many others that understand what I am going through and we are there to support each other in many ways,” says Beaudry.

As a mother of a child with SPD myself, I would encourage others to educate themselves about SPD and begin to approach the situation from the child’s perspective. Once parents have done that, they can then begin using the tools needed to adjust their environment and celebrate as their child meets their goals and overcome challenges.

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Joy Alsup says, “When my son was diagnosed, I felt like he would be limited in his future. He has worked through many of his issues and I see his SPD as part of what makes him unique. I wouldn’t have him any other way.”

It takes a lot of patience, persistence, and love to parent a child with SPD, but when a child feels acceptance and support, they can work through any struggle, and thrive in school and at home.

This article was originally published in the January 2016 issue of KC Parent Magazine.

For more information on sensory processing disorder, visit

Sarah Lyons is a stay at home wife and mother of six children, including 18 month old triplets. Using creative consequences with her kids has improved their behavior and encourages healthy relationships with each other.

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