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My Sensory Processing Disorder Doesn't Need Your Judgment

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I’m an autistic adult who also has sensory processing disorder (SPD). I want parents and caregivers to know they shouldn’t let anyone tell them their child is being “spoiled” due to sensory needs.

It’s more than just “I don’t wanna wear that today” or “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are icky.” It’s more like, “These clothes feel like an assault to my body” and “The feeling of peanut butter in my mouth makes me gag and want to vomit.” In our educational system and society, I believe some people think it’s unacceptable to have sensory needs past the age of 3. If an older child is using a pacifier, the parents are considered lazy. When a little boy can’t control his body enough to sit still in class, he’s considered undisciplined. When a little girl is served a food her body doesn’t process well, her parents are told, “She’ll eat it when she’s hungry enough.”

People with SPD and their parents and caregivers deal with these comments and beliefs all the time. Some children need oral input to do well. Some little boys actually cannot control their impulses when they’re unable to have a form of physical release. And no, she will not eat it when he’s hungry enough. It’s called sensory processing disorder, and it doesn’t work like that.

Do I find it enjoyable to have this condition? No, it’s not enjoyable for me, and it’s not for attention. However, this disorder can be manageable when a person has the right accommodations. As an adult, with more self-awareness, I’ve learned what brands of clothes I can be comfortable in. Sometimes it’s not always cost-effective, but it’s just part of having SPD. I may stand out walking on the street with big noise-canceling headphones on, but it’s a tool I use to be able to process the world around me the way it’s meant to be. And yes, I do bring chocolate animal crackers to work with me for a morning snack. Many of my coworkers are able to eat a larger variety of snacks, and snacks that are healthy. Unfortunately for me, I can’t stand the taste, smell or texture of most veggies.

If nothing else, having SPD has taught me that I need to take care of myself, regardless of potential judgment from others. I encourage others who deal with or have a loved one with SPD to find the right accommodations for you. Not every child can sit through a class without some type of sensory input either before or during, and that’s OK. Remember that everyone is different, and how one person experiences the world around them will differ greatly from the next.

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Originally published: November 11, 2016
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