A Little On Sensory Processing

If we knew back in the nineties, what we know now about Apraxia and all related, potential disorders, my diagnosis would definitely go beyond that of only 'Apraxia.' There has been an abundance of growth in knowledge, research, and therapies from the nineties til now especially.

The most notable is when I was diagnosed it was 'Apraxia' and only Apraxia. The concept of having different levels from moderate to severe wasn't really practiced nor mentioned. There was a simplicity to the label because there was much unknown. What was also largely unknown was a potential, related disorder called 'Sensory Processing Disorder,' which I hope to shed some light on.

Sensory Processing Disorder, in its oversimplified definition, is a miscommunication between how the body perceives or senses [through touch or even listening] and how the brain reacts to that sensation. Basically, even the most simplest of sensations-like the feeling of a clothing tag or denim against your skin- can result in a not-so-typical reaction or response.

There are two ways in which this miscommunication is displayed:

1. Hypersensitivity: Where an individual appears to 'overreact' to a sensation that we view as 'not that big of a deal;' or

2. Hyposensitivity: Where an individual underreacts or seems to overtly exert themselves yet not act or know that they are. For instance, not fully understanding their own strength, not fully understanding their physical distance of their body to someone else's personally space, or not reacting appropriately when pain or discomfort should be felt.

Now I'm still learning about Sensory Processing Disorder and I am by no means a professional, this I learned thanks to Google and my Apraxia Squad. Ultimately though, there's still more to learn. However, looking at my own background and even in my adulthood, I firmly believe that I had or slightly still have Sensory Processing issues. I say this because with other families who do have a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, we seem to have a lot in common.
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The list below are commonalities I've noticed from my own journey that appears similar to others and their own sensory processing. I can't help but to think it's some sensory-related issues and not only "Aly being Aly." These sensory-related issues I have in common with others as well and I'm not one to believe in pure, meaningless coincidences:

As a baby...
  • I did not crawl. The action of having my hands touch the ground would turn into a tantrum. I'd immediately walk, using my hands against the wall to guide me.
As a child...
  • Anything on my hands freaked me out. Finger painting? Disgusting and almost painful, I'd envision little pieces of glass or alien slime being stuck under my skin that couldn't get out no matter how much I washed. Painting with brushes? I was constantly worried and still do about paint getting from the brush onto my hands. Fun fact, I pretty much failed every painting project in Elementary School because well-I would not paint! Or, if I did, it wasn't much. 
  • Dirt and Sand? My biggest nemesis. I could even tell on those fun beach days! I loved the ocean and the water, but walking back and having sand glued to my legs freaked me out. The second I'd return to the beach chairs I needed the sand off of me immediately. Still to this day, I absolutely hate sand and dirt.
  • Being unaware of my body position/overall clumsiness. There's plenty I can say here. But to keep it short I was constantly confused about the position of my limbs and coordinating-learning to ride a bike, I'd constantly hit my shins against the pedals. I could not walk and drink out of a straw [I still can't] because I feel my brain overworking on how to walk, yet alone drink? That's too much! It's almost like two different sensations at once: walking and drinking. It's difficult, okay, even with a straw!
  • Under sensitive in the worst of moments [WARNING: If broken bones freak you out, I suggest you skip this paragraph]: I broke my arm severely in 1st-2nd grade. Ever see Harry Potter when his forearm is bent at the completely opposite direction of his bicep and elbow? That's basically how my arm looked. I had broken it at the school daycare, but did not cry at all. I actually got up, walked over, asked for an ice pack and they sat me down for 2-3 hours before my parents picked me up. My parents were furious at the clear negligence and I never returned actually. But, I was acting completely fine even moving my broken arm around and playing with it like it was nothing. I didn't start crying actually until it was re-set, but obviously when anyone breaks their arm you're, I don't know, supposed to cry? Be in pain? I wasn't. Sure it could've been shock, but shock only lasts so long. 
As an adult, it's well hidden but I still sense that I have some potential issues with Sensory Processing:
  • Clothing can be a struggle, often I get in these "moods" where I feel agitated or uncomfortable with the simplest of sensations:
    • Jeans and Denim: The other day, I put on newly washed jeans and used the same detergent as I always do. My legs were beyond itchy within minutes. I felt that I was breaking out in hives (which I often do, sensitive skin) and immediately changed. I even showed my sister my legs, remarking, "Oh my gosh, look at my hives!" She looked and said, "I don't see anything?" Apparently, I was sensing the itchiness, the hives, some sort of rash, but there was absolutely nothing. This has happened to me so many times, I lost count.
    • This may be too much information, but being female I have to share for other girls out there. Bras are sensory overload. You know when you're first wearing a bra, it feels different or funny and you're told, "Oh, you'll get used to it." My issue? I don't think I will ever be used to it. Sure, it's slightly easier over time and there's so many options out there now, but for me when I'm in one of my 'moods,' it can feel like a boa constructor is wrapped around my torso. My favorite is when the woman at Victoria's Secret says, "That's a perfect fit!" Inwardly I'm questioning how a perfect fit can feel so uncomfortable. And tags inside said concoction? I can't even, the tags have to be cut out. Having a snake-like feeling around my torso plus the scratchiness  and toothpick-stabbing of a tag is the worst feeling! Yet I talk to other women and they say, "Oh I don't even think about it." Inwardly, how could they not think about it? Don't they feel it too?
  • Dirt
    • I'm still trying to get over this one; I'm even on a softball team to try to face the discomfort. I constantly tell myself not to think about it, but when dirt gets on my hands and I touch something else, like a bat, it feels like there's sand paper scratching at my palms. If I put my hands into a soft glove, softer than my very old one, it can feel like seaweed, slimy and gross. Now, most people think it's a germaphobe or OCD thing and who knows, it may be. I even say it's a germaphobe thing because it's easier for them to understand. But I know it's not, I don't think about germs. I think about how dirt feels on my skin, seeping into my pores, making my hands rub against sandpaper, and it never being able to get off of me. 
Once again, I'm not sure if I have Sensory Processing Disorder or Issues and I'm not really seeking out a diagnosis at all. What I do know is I can completely empathize with what children diagnosed with this go through. If we could understand what that child feels when their senses are stimulated with this disorder, it'll help tremendously. 

There's still a lot to learn about this; even today there's debates on whether or not it's a standalone disorder or not, as its often grouped with Autism. But what I do know is that anyone undergoing SPD and all of its challenges can definitely benefit from Occupational Therapy. Continuing to challenging a child even in trying new sports, activities, and so forth is important too; afterall, we can't let these bothers hinder the fun and beauty of being a kid.

Now, at least for me, I'll continue to keep my eyes out for when I get in my 'moods' and try to keep my brain in check when it goes a little haywire. Dirt don't hurt, right?