If I were to tell you that both of my sons have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), you might: a) ask, what is that? b) ask, how did you know that they have it? or c) not believe me unless you had met them – especially my older son – a few years ago.

I believe that they are mostly recovered because of occupational therapy (OT) interventions over the course of a year and a half and because of ongoing naturopathic medicine and dietary changes.

My goal here in this article is to help other parents understand what SPD is and what can be done about it.

To answer the first question, people with SPD have a problem with the wiring from their nervous system to their brain; SPD is a neurological disorder.  SPD is usually more noticeable in kids; most adults have learned to compensate.

Sensory Seekers and Sensory Avoiders

There are two kinds of people with SPD: sensory seekers and sensory avoiders.  Sensory seekers are the kids who are constantly seeking stimulation. They like to crash hard into things or people, or they won’t stop spinning or swinging.

My sons are both sensory avoiders, so I can tell you more about that because of my personal experience. The most mundane things can overstimulate sensory avoiders. Lights are too bright, sounds are too loud, the lightest touch can hurt, food textures can bother them, and motions can make them dizzy or sick. From what I understand, many autistic children also have SPD.

So, how did I come to know that they had SPD? I’m going to focus here on my older son because he’s the one that had the most pronounced symptoms and because I had learned from him to see those symptoms in my younger son.

I’m also going to tell you that not all of his symptoms were SPD symptoms but those of gut dysbiosis and immune dysregulation as Beth Lambert details in her book, A Compromised Generation.

The more you know about neurological disorders such as SPD, autism, and ADD/ADHD, the more you understand that there are many comorbid symptoms that result from the same root causes. I’ll explore the root causes and how I discovered them in a later article.

Something Was Wrong

Here are the major signs that I had that something was wrong:

When my older son was a baby, he would constantly projectile vomit.

His weight gain was OK until he started eating solid food around five months of age. It was incredibly hard (no, “TORTURE” is the right word here) to feed him any solid food.

It got so bad that I (being a former Wall Street analyst) made a spreadsheet to show the doctor that he was only eating ten cheerios and one ounce of yogurt a day. The rest of his calories came from my breast milk.  Any food or breast milk I managed to get in him was typically vomited up immediately.

He didn’t crawl when he should have. Instead, he slithered backwards at eight months of age.

He would always cry when going for a ride in the car. Looking back now, I’m sure it was motion sickness; he would vomit a lot when going for a ride.

Loud or unexpected noises would make him cry. I had to remove the batteries from any toy that made noises because he would always cry when the toys made sounds.

He army crawled until he was 18 months old.

At his 18-month checkup, the pediatrician discovered that my older son had lost weight. He recommended taking him to McDonald’s and giving him Pediasure. I’ll go over why this was such bad advice in another post.

He didn’t walk until he was 20 months old. This was extremely hard for me because he didn’t walk until three weeks before his little brother was born, and I had to carry him everywhere while I was 8+ months pregnant.

I couldn’t take him anywhere because he would get sick without fail. This scenario continued until we started seeing a naturopathic doctor when he was four years old. Trust me, the Prevacid for his acid reflux and the antibiotics for his ear infections weren’t helping at all. I’ll discuss that in a later article.

He would always sleep way more than other kids his age. At three years of age, he needed 15 hours of sleep a day; most kids get 10-12 hours at that age. People used to call me “the sleep nazi” because I was so committed to making sure that he got his naps; my life revolved around his sleep schedule. What those people didn’t know is that there was hell to pay from a relentlessly crying child if I didn’t ensure that schedule.

He was like a little limp rag doll. It was so sad to see other kids happily and busily playing and climbing while my son sat there like a lump on a log. I’ll talk about why this was so in a later article.

Even as a baby, he would cry if I put him in a swing. He refused to go on slides or merry-go-rounds. This became a real concern for me when he started preschool. I realized that if he were always to play in the sandbox while other kids played on the playground, he would never be able to make friends. I don’t think any mother would want a lifetime of social isolation for their child.

We couldn’t take him anywhere! While other kids were having fun going to birthday parties and social events, we’d try to go and then have to leave because he would cry at all the overstimulation. Even being around a lot of people would be overstimulating because of all the movement and noise.

I couldn’t even take him grocery shopping. Sure enough, halfway through the store, the bright fluorescent lights, eye-catching colors, different smells, and loud, echoey noises would get to him, and he would start crying. If I was lucky and had my husband with me, he could take him out to the car to calm down while I finished shopping. If I didn’t, we’d have to suffer through.

He was a barnacle. I felt as if he were permanently physically attached to me. It wasn’t so bad when he was younger, but after his brother was born, it was extremely difficult to deal with two small, crying children at the same time, who both wanted to be picked up and held at the same time.

I would feel so guilty about neglecting his little brother, and then I would get angry because it just wasn’t right that the older one’s needs should be taking away from the little one’s. He was older, all of his peers were becoming more self-sufficient, why wasn’t he?

He had an incredible amount of anxiety. I’ll explore the reason for this and what was done to help him overcome this in a later blog. This is probably one of the more interesting and unknown aspects of neurological disorders.

He was incredibly withdrawn with his peers. He would usually open up a little more to adults over time.

It is my understanding that the earlier the intervention occurs, the better, as children’s brains are constantly growing and rewiring themselves. Intervention causes the brain to rewire itself so that the brain properly processes signals from the nervous system.

My older son’s intervention began when he was 3-1/2 years old. If you were to meet him today, you would have no clue that this is the same child I’ve discussed here. He is happy; he’s social; he’s even extremely outgoing!

Who knew that this was the child that was really hiding inside this damaged body? Sorry, I’m crying when I write this because this feeling of peace and recovery and health is what I so wished for ever since I was first pregnant with him – doesn’t every mom want that?

Maria Rickert Hong is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor who received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  She specializes in recovery from symptoms of autoimmune, neurological, behavioral and digestive disorders, as she has recovered her own sons from Sensory Processing Disorder, asthma and acid reflux.  She is also a board member, social media director and blogger for Epidemic Answers, a non-profit whose goal is to let parents know recovery is possible from autism, ADHD, SPD, allergies, asthma, autoimmune, Lyme and more.

Maria Rickert Hong can be contacted at maria[at]epidemicanswers[dot]org

2 comments

  1. Rhonda

    Dear Maria, read the book, “Breaking The Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gottschall B.A.,M.Sc.
    Also, “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” by Dr. Natasha Campbell MD.

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