It finally made sense

“I have been talking and writing about sensory problems for over 20 years, and am still perplexed by many people who do not acknowledge sensory issues and the pain and discomfort they can cause. A person doesn’t have to be on the autism spectrum to be affected by sensory issues.”

–Dr. Temple Grandin, “The Way I See It.”

My grandson was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SDP) at age 4. I was so happy to finally understand the cause of his inconsolable crying when I put his socks and shoes on , his resistance to tooth and hair brushing, and a host of other sensory related upsets. It finally made sense.

I was grateful to learn that I could relieve the discomfort he experienced by taking simple steps to start desensitizing him. His first Occupational Therapist (OT) gave me a list of simple exercises that I could do with him at home, and I also started a daily brushing routine that helped tremendously. I found seamless socks, more comfortable shoes and pants, cut tags out of shirts as soon as I got them home from the store, and adjusted the tooth brushing routine. I also carried a set of noise dampening headphones with me to use when sounds in certain places was too loud and upsetting for him.

By adopting these and other early interventions, my grandson has become more sensory tolerant over the years, but that does not mean he does not have SPD anymore. From time to time he will be bothered by something that didn’t affect him for a great while. His socks, no longer seamless, may start bothering him after becoming scratchy inside after many washings. The feel of something he touched many times may suddenly turn him off, or the sound, texture, or smell of something that hasn’t bothered him may unexpectedly be intolerable.

When this happens, it’s easy to minimize it, or not make the connection between SPD and the ensuing meltdown right away. This is when it is important to remember that SPD is a neurological disorder, and it will never really go away.

While consistent intervention does help children with SPD to become more sensory tolerant, there are times something may suddenly bother them again. Please don’t ignore or minimize this, because a child can actually experience pain, which, if experienced by anyone else at that level, would trigger a reaction, too. Work with your child and teach him how to address any sensory issues appropriately. If verbal, he can learn to use his words to express what he is feeling, and ask for help instead of melting down uncontrollably, which can upset those around him and leave them baffled as to what triggered the sudden breakdown. If non-verbal, try to find another way for your child to express the discomfort, so you can respond accordingly and appropriately. Having visual supports—pictures a non-verbal child can point to—can be very helpful.

Showing your child that you respect his feelings, acknowledging his discomfort, and finding a solution to the problem together will minimize the trauma that often accompanies sensory issues, and will eventually help your child learn to cope with them independently.


For some great sensory support tools, visit


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