Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a complex disorder of the brain that affects developing children as well as adults. Individuals with SPD misinterpret everyday sensory information received from the five senses: touch, vision, sound, smell, and taste. In addition, there are two senses that are rarely heard of: the vestibular and the proprioceptive systems. The vestibular system has functions located in the base of the brain (cerebellum), the upper part of the neck (cervical spine) and the inner ear. It is the “chief regulator” of ALL incoming sensory information and is considered the most important sensory system. The proprioceptive system is located through-out the spine as well as all other joints of the body. Some people with SPD feel bombarded by sensory information; others seek out intense sensory experiences or have other problems. SPD can lead to behavioral problems, difficulties with coordination or attention, learning disorders, low self-esteem and a variety of other issues. Individuals may also become socially isolated and have trouble in school or work.
Children with SPD are often misunderstood and labeled as aggressive, clumsy, inattentive, or “difficult”. They may also be diagnosed as having ADD, ADHD, or other diagnosis’s under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder. SPD can also co-exist with these disorders as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and others. The neurological disorganization resulting in SPD can occur three different ways: the brain does not receive messages due to a disconnection in the nerve cells; sensory messages are received inconsistently; or sensory messages are received consistently, but do not connect properly with other sensory messages. When the brain poorly processes sensory messages, inefficient motor, language, or emotional output is the result.
Properly functioning vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems are the two key components in developing a healthy sensory processing system. Because these two sensory systems are housed in the spine, it is essential that children and adults with signs of SPD be evaluated by a chiropractor for vertebral subluxations (misalignments) of the spine that may be causing interference within the brain and sensory systems.
How do I know if my child has SPD?
A few symptoms that children with SPD may exhibit:
- Loves to spin, swing and jump; can’t sit still. Or, dislikes to spin or swing.
- Complains of how clothing feels, does not like tags left in their clothing and
- has to have their socks on just so; may be fidgety.
- Picky eaters.
- Oversensitivity to smells. Or undersensitivity–may sniff people, objects, food.
- Oversensitivity to sounds–will frequently cover ears or have difficulty
- concentrating in a noisy environment.
- May have an exceptionally high or low pain tolerance.
- Sits with poor posture “slumper”. Seems to tire easily.
- Resists new situations; doesn’t like changes in routine.
- Problems with muscle tone, coordination, motor planning.
- Can be very impulsive or distractible.
- Likes to pinch, push, or crash into things (couches, pillows, beds).
- Persistently walks on toes to avoid sensory input from the bottom of the feet.
- There may also be a history of a traumatic or difficult birth, c-section, or breech birth.
- It is estimated that as many as 1/20 children may suffer from SPD!
Take this brief survey to see if your child may benefit from
Neurosensory Integration Therapy:
- Doesn’t like tags in clothing
- Is a picky eater; prefers foods of same texture and temperature
- Avoids putting hands in messy substances (e.g. dough, clay, finger paint, mud)
- Negative behavioral changes or gets sick with cleaning days (same day or next day)
- Dislikes strong smells
- Has many allergies
- History of repeated ear infections
- Is distracted by noises; seems to hear noises that go unnoticed by others
- Speaks in a loud voice
- Often loses place when reading
- Has trouble coordinating eyes for following a moving object or catching a ball
- Has difficulty copying
- Unable to sit still; is in constant motion
- Loves swinging, jumping or spinning
- Avoids or has difficulty with activities that require balance
- Exerts too little or too much pressure with objects (e.g. frequently breaks crayons, pencils or writes too light or too hard)
- Appears stiff, awkward or clumsy
- Confuses right from left
- Has difficulty with a change in routines
- Is easily frustrated
- Has frequent mood-swings, outbursts or tantrums
How would you say the above checked problems/difficulties interfere with your child’s life?
Not at all Slightly Interferes Moderately Interferes Greatly Interferes
Why Chiropractic Care for Sensory Processing Disorder?
Chiropractic care is a safe, natural, alternative treatment from potentially harmful, and even fatal drugs. Individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, Autism Spectrum Disorders and other various learning disorders, have a nervous system “disconnect”. In order for healthy sensory processing to occur, there must be proper communication between the Central Nervous System (CNS= brain & spinal cord) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS= spinal nerves out to the rest of the body). It is widely understood that if a person has an injury to the spinal cord, they may become paralyzed from the level of injury down because the brain can no longer send messages past the point of injury out to the rest of the body. However, rarely is it taken into consideration what happens when individual spinal nerves are injured or impaired.
Spinal nerves branch off in pairs on either side of the spinal cord. They carry messages from the brain out to the rest of the body and from the body back to the brain.
Vertebral Subluxation is when one or more bones of your spine (vertebrae) move out of position and create pressure on, or irritate spinal nerves. This pressure or irritation causes those nerves to malfunction and interfere with the signals traveling over them. Subluxations of the spine can lead to nervous system interference and a “miscommunication” between the brain and the body (CNS & PNS).
Causes of Vertebral Subluxation include: In-utero constraint during pregnancy, breech pregnancy/birth,c-section, use of forceps or suction cup, multiples (twins, triplets, etc.), and birth trauma from a “normal” birth. Additional causes include falls; when children are learning to walk, they are constantly falling either face first, on their bum, or backwards. Then there are the falls out of cribs, off couches, beds, chairs; off playground equipment or bicycles, etc.. Car accidents can cause spinal trauma; even if the child is restrained in a car seat or has a seat belt on. School-aged children carrying backpacks, children playing recreational or school related sports, and cheerleaders are all prone to spinal injuries. These are just a few possible causes of Vertebral Subluxations, there are many more!
Causes of Sensory Processing Disorder include: Children born via c-section, use of forceps or suction cup, birth trauma, breech pregnancy/birth, multiples, toxicity exposure or anesthetics during delivery. All can lead to immature or atypical development of the nervous system or faulty transmission of information within the nervous system.
According to researchers Rossitch and Oakes (1992), the incidence of birth trauma is often overlooked and misdiagnosed. They have reported false diagnosis in four out of five cases where severe injury to the spinal cord occurred. In an autopsy study concerning this same issue, Dr. Towbin, M.D. (1970), found relevant injuries to the brainstem and spinal cord in 10% of cases while other studies show as high as 50%. Injuries consisted of spinal epidural hemorrhages, meningeal tears and injuries to blood vessels, the muscles and ligaments, and the nerve and bone structures. It is important to note that such damage can occur even in “normal” births!
Given the parallel causes of Vertebral Subluxations and Sensory Processing Disorder; both of which are related to birth trauma (even in a “normal” birth), it is imperative that children and adults be checked by a chiropractor to insure that their nervous system is working at its optimal level!
*Information provided by: Sensory Development Seminar