By Alyssa Neudorf
The first question most people ask is, what is sensory processing disorder (SPD)? I would describe it simply as processing the entire world differently. A person who is partially sighted or hearing impaired will process the information coming to those senses in a different way from someone with typical vision or hearing.
What does this mean for me? As a person with SPD, it means that I process all the information coming to ALL of my senses differently, more intensely and all at the same time. Most people have the luxury of blocking out repetitive stimuli like the clock ticking, the clothes you are wearing, the smells in the air and, the chair you are sitting on while reading – this is not something I get to do. I am aware of everything all the time.
When all this intense and repetitive information becomes too much something called sensory overload is reached. Sensory overload can look and feel different for each individual person. For me, it is something that happens suddenly. I am fine until I am not. I begin to feel very warm, shaky, things start to dim around the outside of my eyes. My brain starts to try and leave my body making it very, very hard to speak or move without help. It feels like there is a tonne of bricks stacked on my vocal cords and the signals to legs are slow or blocked. Mentally I know I can speak and I can move but making that happen is very hard. It is at this point that a simple question, touch or surprise will trigger a meltdown. People will often ask “what do you need?”, or “what can I do?” The problem is at this point I don’t know and if I do I can’t always tell you. I can’t think and I feel frozen and stuck with everything spinning, flashing and pounding away around me all while becoming more intense. Then hyperventilation kicks in.
Sound exhausting and painful yet?
Having a schedule and routine helps me to plan out my sensory energy for the day. There is only such much I can do with 20 tokens and everything in your days takes different amounts. Getting dressed, eating, school, being social, going outside, tying your shoes, and taking the bus just to name a few. As a result, I can’t drive yet even though I would like to, don’t go shopping much, I wear certain clothing, most of my shoes don’t have laces (those that still do will be replaced with elastics), and I only wear specific socks. Clothes shopping is a big challenge and thus is avoided and is only done on a day when I don’t have to do anything else that day.
That is just a small window into the life of one person with SPD. It is different from person to person. Hopefully this article has helped you gain some understanding of what it is like to have SPD.