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Sensory Processing Disorder

Posted Nov 13 2012 6:00am

foamcow (flickr)

Dear Doctor Mama,

My 9-year-old son has been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. He is really smart and has a great sense of humor, but he is unable to self-regulate at times. He regularly has several-hour melt downs when asked to do reading comprehension work (we homeschool), and he rocks on his stomach to calm himself.

His doctors have decided that he doesn’t have autism or ADHD. We’re hoping to be able to get him some occupational therapy services, but I know that he needs more than that.

Can you suggest anything that he can do or take to help him self-regulate?

Thank you!

Melissa in California

Dear Melissa,

Thanks for your question!

What’s SPD?

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD (formerly called Sensory Integration Dysfunction), have a harder time integrating the signals from the environment around them. All of the sights, sounds, smells, and other sensations that come into their awareness get processed differently, making seemingly small things—like an itchy tag on a shirt—seem almost unbearable. The vestibular system is also affected by SPD, making activities like swinging or spinning difficult. It is often hard for people with SPD to know where their body is in space (altered proprioception), leading to symptoms like clumsiness. Behavioral issues, difficulty in school, anxiety, and depression are commonly seen in people with the disorder. SPD often goes hand-in-hand with other disorders like autism, but it can also occur on its own.

Natural Help for SPD

I think getting OT involved in your son’s care is important. They’ll be able to give him and your family tools to help him calm and better self-regulate.

Some promising research suggests that  Qigong massage is an effective way for families to help autistic children better integrate the sensory input from their surroundings. Even though your son isn’t autistic, sensory processing difficulties are one of the most troubling aspects of autism spectrum disorders. Distance training courses are available for families to learn to apply this technique at home, and you’ll have the tools for a lifetime!

Homeopathy is another option that I’d look into. Homeopathy is a system of medicine based on the principle that “like cures like.” It utilizes infinitesimally small doses of substances that would cause the same symptoms in a healthy person that you’re trying to cure. Look for a doctor  in your area who’s trained in classical homeopathy to find a remedy that best suits your son.

In terms of supplements, there are many that might be useful. Your son could certainly benefit from a good fish oil supplement. Here’s what I recommend:  Nordic Naturals – Ultimate Omega Junior . Numerous studies support the use of omega-3s in neurological conditions and for overall brain and nervous system health.

Another thing I’d always have on hand is  Rescue Remedy . This gentle, calming combination of flower essences packaged in sweet pastilles is a hit with every child I’ve ever known. SInce it works on an energetic level, there’s no way to overdose on it. You can give him his own stash to keep in his room to take when he feels like he might “lose it.”

You might also want to consider some dietary changes for your son. Avoiding all GMO foods, casein, and/or gluten can have remarkable effects on some children’s SPD symptoms. It can be a LOT to undertake these changes, though, so I’d recommend starting with one thing (maybe gluten) and seeing if you notice any improvement.

I hope that’s helpful! Please let me know how he does.


Doctor Mama

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