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When People Think 'Only Kids Have Sensory Processing Disorder'

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October is National Sensory Awareness Month.

This blog is dedicated to all adults with sensory processing disorder (SPD). There are people willing to understand us.

As an adult diagnosed last year with SPD, I’ve found many people have misconceptions about it. For instance, “Adults don’t have SPD, only kids have SPD.” What people may not realize is when those kids grow up, they don’t outgrow SPD. It’s not that I want anyone to experience SPD at any stage of life. It’s that, to me, society seems to have misconstrued what it means to have this disorder, and people may assume it only applies to certain ages.

A few people have stated to me, “You look normal from the outside, so I don’t think you have SPD.

Hmm. I believe “normal” is an overused adjective in our society, and everyone’s “normal” is different. I might look “normal,” but inside, because of my tactile sensitivity, all I want to do is rip off my clothes.

There have been numerous instances in which adults, mostly strangers, mocked me for wearing noise-canceling headphones to various public social gatherings. Adults like me may be given stares of judgment for this behavior. Possibly they’re staring because my headphones are pink, or because I have a service dog. But there’s no excuse for an adult to make fun of people of any age with special needs, whether medical or psychiatric. We don’t need to explain why we use something that reduces our anxiety or SPD.

I have friends who are willing to better understand how SPD bears down upon me daily. They are all very supportive and accept who I am as a person. But outside my social circle, acquaintances and strangers tend to think it’s a made up disorder in adults, even though they may understand and accept kids with SPD. In my experience, this is a double standard of how society perceives those who have SPD.

I’m currently researching services for adults with SPD, as there is not an abundance of them locally. In my area, the majority of autism and SPD services are for children. The business I’ve been corresponding with in the past week provides services for kids, not adults, but they are willing to assist me in decreasing and better coping with my SPD issues. This is a first for them and also for me, and while I was both excited and anxious, the anxiety was a good anxiety. The staff was extremely understanding from the very beginning, explaining what type of services they would provide. They didn’t know it, but they had already begun helping me before I even entered their office.

I met with my occupational therapist yesterday, and the session went well. I’m doing neurofeedback, which trains the brain to change how it perceives noises and senses occurring within my body and brain.

After I came home from the session, my brain and body were extremely exhausted and overstimulated to the point I couldn’t get myself to unwind and relax for two hours. I’m hoping this is just my body’s reaction to new treatments to lessen SPD issues and that gradually the reactions will be less and less as the benefits outweigh them.

I spoke with my occupational therapist, and she reassured me this is normal after a neurofeedback session and the reaction will lessen each time. I feel better knowing this is normal and I’m able to give her feedback on how I’m reacting to each session.

Every day, we encounter new challenges with a variety of obstacles, yet we prevail. The love and support family, friends and community show can make us fight harder to be stronger than we ever thought we could be.

Thank you to those willing to understand who I am as a person.

“Sometimes, we only want to see what is occurring in front of us, not what’s occurring within the person’s psyche or body. We can’t truly comprehend how they perceive the world or how their body reacts; nevertheless, we can try our hardest to lend a supportive hand. To have someone understand a little is a step in the right direction for the future.”  Sara

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Originally published: October 17, 2016
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