How to Cope with Sensory Processing Disorder in Autism
Whether you’re a parent looking to find out more about Sensory Processing Disorder or an autistic adult who thinks they have some symptoms of SPD, we’re here to help! Continue reading to learn more about SPD and how to cope with Sensory Processing Disorder.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
There’s a lot of sensory information that people encounter every day. That includes all of the things you see, smell, taste, touch, and hear! These different stimuli can feel very overwhelming to people with Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD.
SPD is a condition that makes a person’s brain process sensory information differently than others, changing how sensitive they are to that stimuli. In most cases, SPD makes people more sensitive to sensory information, but it can also make people less sensitive.
Research shows that children are more likely to have SPD than adults, but some adults have symptoms, too.
Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism
You may have noticed some similarities between autism symptoms and SPD in our description—they do resemble each other, but there are also a few important distinctions.
The major difference between children with autism and SPD is their ability to understand another person’s feelings. Children with SPD showed similar abilities to children with typical development, while children with ASD had more trouble gauging emotions.
The vast majority of children with autism have some form of Sensory Processing Disorder, which is why your child may under or over react to certain sounds, lights, or textures.
Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder
As a parent, keep an eye out for a few common complaints from your child:
- Sounds at a normal volume that are “too loud”
- Gentle touches feel “too hard”
- Clothing feels “too scratchy”
- Lights seem “too bright”
- Poor balance
- Dislike of food textures
Now that you know more about it, here are some tips for how to cope with Sensory Processing Disorder.
Every child has a different set of things that help them relax. You’ve probably noticed your child seeking out certain items when they feel overwhelmed or anxious—follow their lead. A comfort kit may include a weighted blanket, or toys your child can fidget with. Try to keep a comfort kit on hand at all times, just in case.
One of the best tools to calm a child with Sensory Processing Disorder is to create a space that feels safe. Make sure you take all of their symptoms into account—use soft lights if bright ones bother them, and put up blankets or curtains to muffle noise. You can also teach your child some self-regulation techniques to help them once they’re in their safe space.
Creating an “Overwhelmed” Signal
As a parent, you may know a lot of the obvious signs that your child is in distress. However, they may occasionally experience emotions solely on the inside. When that happens, ensure you and your child have a signal they can show you that tells you to give them some help. They might do a special wave or a certain hand signal—whatever it is, it lets you know that you need to step in to help calm them down.
Take it Slow
While new experiences may seem fun and spontaneous to you, they can be jarring and unpleasant for your child. Instead of planning surprises, introduce your child to new experiences slowly and intentionally.
We know that learning how to cope with Sensory Processing Disorder can present some challenges, but we hope these strategies help you and/or your child on the spectrum. Do you have your own coping strategies that help you deal with Sensory Processing Disorder? Share what works for you with our communities on Facebook or Instagram—we’re always interested to learn more!