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Sensory Processing Disorder and.......

This is a website created for the clients from age 12 years through adults of all ages that I work with now with sensory disorders and for anyone who is trying to find comprehensive resources and information about Sensory Processing Disorder. The older term is Sensory Integration Disorder.

I am a craniosacral therapist and HHP with a multi-dimensional approach to health and well-being. Offering craniosacral therapy. sensory resources and strategies that can facilitate sensory development, self-regulation and balancing of the sensory system for home or clinic, I also create Strategy Sessions for my clients--in person or by phone. My work is often also with family who is helping their older kids, partners or friends to cope with ADHD, PTSD, Autism, and Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD, and other sensory disorders, including PTSD. Often these are misdiagnosed or the solutions of drug treatment may be premature, ineffective or harmful. This website focuses on possible solutions, research, sensory tools, resources and strategies.

A Strategy Session to determine some possibilities and new ideas is offered that may include SPD techniques, craniosacral therapy, trauma resolution, specific nutritional analysis using hair and tissue analysis to supplement and resolve deficiencies and toxic substances that may add to these disorders discussed. There may be a Sensory Diet with specific activities and creative learning actualization based on individual consultation. Sessions are available as support for the parents and partners of those with sensory disorders who are struggling with the variables involved.

I am in the North San Diego area and see clients at one of two offices and do distance work nationally and internationally by phone as well...contact me

I can be found here and on: craniosacraltherapies.com

Victoria Behrends - RCSTĀ®, M.A., HHP, MH, BSP, CA Teaching Credential          

After many of my clients are freed up or self-regulated from the characteristics of SPD with craniosacral sessions, and other resources, we work further together in the Strategy Sessions to be more creatively actualized and to have more fun-----they write, act, paint, make music, do individual sports and other physical activities and often meet educational goals better than before.

Adults or older children who have SPD have great trouble making sense out of the information their brains take in. Determining what to filter out and what to pay attention to in the moment is difficult, and their responses to the information may not fit the situation. Those responses might have to do with concentrating on what someone is saying to them whether it is a task or information being given by a parent or teacher, or a request by a partner, an employer, or even taking in words of love. The response might be an action or movement required that can result in a fall or awkward movement when the brain misjudges the physical adjustment needed. There may also be a response in communication that doesn't seem to make sense or is explosive or passive when unexpected. The responses may be over sensitive or under responsive as a result.

Often there is lack of knowledge about these disorders and what to do to create improvement and that's where my Strategy Sessions can help direct, inform and sometimes lead to Resources unknown before---and to local Resources for the client some distance away from me.

Some characteristics of sensory disorders

Here are only a few characteristics listed by the SPD Foundation and me. There are more extensive descriptions on other pages here on the website.....though with sensory disorders, I work with 12 and up.....I include the references on this site to childrens' characteristics, both books and research so folks can recognize their own developmental history that they or family might recall.......

CHILD - oversensitivity to touch, noise, smell, other people, clumsy, poor motor skills, easily distracted, fidgety, aggressive, easily overwhelmed, difficulty making friends, unaware of pain and/or other people, lethargic and slow, tasks uncompleted, difficulty staying focused, frequent or long temper tantrums or meltdowns, bumping into things, inappropriate comments, lack of compassion.

ADULT (though most characteristics above may apply as well) constantly losing important items, difficulty staying focused at work or school, always on the go, easily distracted, poor esteem, anxiety, depression, lack of compassion, afraid of failing at new tasks, clumsy, oversensitive to touch, noise, smells, leaves tasks uncompleted, moody, up and down, over or under responsive, reactive, tasks incomplete, overwhelmed, unaware of or overly aware of others' pain,.

Here is a good working definition from Gwen Wild, OTR, MOT-her website is: sensationalbrain.com

Sensory Processing Disorder

In children and adults with sensory processing issues (sometimes called Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration Dysfunction), the brain has difficulty making sense of the sensory information and deciding what to focus on and what to filter out, and how to respond appropriately to the information. This response may be a motor action, such as adjusting your posture so you don't fall down (clumsiness), or it may be a cognitive response, such as being able to concentrate on your spouse's (or teacher's) voice even though the kids are being noisy in the same room.  People with sensory processing issues have to expend a lot of extra energy and thought power making sense of their sensory world and trying to formulate appropriate responses. Therefore they struggle with poor attention, low frustration tolerance, moodiness, anxiety, and sometimes depression. Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is an umbrella term that encompasses several different types of disorders resulting from poor sensory integration.

SPD and my own work

As a Craniosacral Therapist and HHP I am trained in both Biodynamic and Upledger craniosacral techniques, nutrition, herbs, specific SPD techniques, trauma/stress resolution, somatic therapies and creative learning performance. In addition, as a college and secondary instructor for over thirty years I taught English Language Development, Communication, Art and directed Theater, with an MA in Liberal Arts. Today I work often with trauma, injury, sensory disorders, self-regulation, creative learning and balancing the nervous system, often employing my teaching background.

The craniosacral approach is to listen for and build the health in the system, rather than "treating" a problem. I research leading edge information on behalf of my clients and I continually take advanced workshops and training in areas that apply to that research, as in the case of Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, or sensory integration disorder and other disorders.

I use a multilevel plan of action, in person and sometimes by phone called Strategy Sessions that involve the whole system. Often I have acted as an advocate on behalf of clients. The Strategy Sessions are often also for the parents or partners to help guide them or process the many difficulties of dealing with lack of information, treatment available, or their own frustration and sadness. 

I also use many of the sensory activities I worked with for over 25 years with movement, music, Art, Theatre and often recommend Martial Arts (depending on the style and quality of instruction) and even old fashioned Typewriting. I ask my clients of all ages to draw or write or even sing about their feelings, things they'd like to do, act out goals, make art, and plan futures. Often sound and light therapies come into play.  Usually the person and I create a neat notebook together, containing these ideas and activities that they can look at and enjoy after our work is complete.
After and during levels of balance have been reached, creative actualized learning and support for goals of education and other creative endeavors can be facilitated in Strategy Sessions....often there are successes in job and education that result.

As a past college and secondary teacher, I made it a point to include special needs students and many physically and emotionally challenged kids in my regular and sheltered Drama and Art classes. It made a difference to those students and they made a difference in my Theatre and Art programs, teaching other students a level of acceptance and understanding about sensory disorders and learning difficulties of fellow students. These special needs students did extremely well in the activities that had them singing, dancing, and making art or doing stagecraft and on occasion they had a role in a production. It is now clear to me that I was working with students that represented all points on the continuum of Sensory Processing Disorder as described by Carol Stock Kranowitz, in her excellent updated book The Out-of-Sync Child, one of the best resources on SPD (more are described in my SPD Resources section).

My clients are the reason that I've created this website-----sensoryprocessingbugs.com, to help them to find me, the research, tools and books available. The Strategy Sessions and activities and activities for creative learning also help to make it easier for parents, qualified (in the area of SPD) occupational and physical therapists and other craniosacral therapists and teachers to do the work...ideally, as a team approach with frequent communication......to find resources to balance the system and look for health. The Strategy Sessions may include the creative activities listed above. Craniosacral therapy may be included and has been shown to make a difference (see Michele Gianetti's book I Believe in You on this website's Resource page, and references to craniosacral articles). More information about craniosacral therapy and trauma resolution is on my other website, craniosacraltherapies.com .

SPD, What now?

A number of clients have come to me with what I recognize as a sensory disorder or a description of Sensory Processing Disorder-- for themselves or for their relatives and most often have anxiety about what this means and what the causes might be. The word "sensory" is clear to most people, but a sensory disorder or sensory integration disorder is often a new idea to many parents or even therapists, especially in determining what to do about it. Much of the time, difficult behavior is the red flag, leading to the exhausting search for answers....and to many more questions.

It can be overwhelming for a person or family members faced with learning what SPD is, how to work with it, distinguishing how it relates to Aspergers, ADHD, Autism, PTSD, and what sensory resources and solutions may best help. These are disorders, that can often be in combination as can the solutions and activities needed to help. This website is a resource to help people to look for answers for older children, teens and adults who have SPD and other sensory disorders.

Another important fact is that SPD and some of the other disorders are concerned with much more than just calming an overactive system, but may involve an under-responsive system that needs to be actively facilitated with therapy and sensory solutions, and sometimes the balance of BOTH stimulating and calming are needed. The person who is very quiet and "good" may be under the radar, while the explosive or overactive person is in line for solutions because their behavior might be disturbing in the school or home setting. Strategies can be more precise that drug treatment or generic solutions.

Not widely known is that trauma, physical or emotional is often the starting point of SPD and other disorders. It is obvious with PTSD, but hasn't been often applied to the other conditions in understanding treatment options of trauma resolution.

I've trained with Robert Scaer, MD, trauma author and neurologist and Ana do Valle, OTR, SEP, who make that trauma connection in their ongoing work with therapists and patients, Ana travels often to a world crisis to help children and adults impacted. (She has my Caterpillar Tunnel, and uses it in her trainings). I combine that training and background with my other modalities, including the Upledger Sensory Integration course most recently.

The SPD Foundation states:

"Studies show that as many as five percent of all children suffer from SPD, yet information and help for those with this disorder is still very limited. A lack of insurance or school-based diagnostic resources combined with the fact that SPD often looks like other disorders frequently results in misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment for children and adults." (spdfoundation.net.)

So, what is SPD?

In the several books and resources on my SPD Resources page are many descriptions of SPD, and here are a few other definitions and characteristics to start with:

"Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is the inability to process information received through the senses in order to function smoothly in daily life. SPD is not one specific disorder, as blindness or deafness is, but rather an umbrella term to cover a variety of neurological disabilities." (Kranowitz, The Out of Sync Child)

Kranowitz does a good job of reporting the history and current studies in SPD, and she goes on to say:

"The late A. Jean Ayres. Ph.D, an occupational therapist, was the first to describe sensory problems as the result of inefficient neurological processing. In the late 1950s and 1060s she developed a theory of sensory integrations and taught other occupational therapists."

Referring to Dr. Lucy Miller's work, Kranowitz restates:

"SPD happens in the central nervous system, at the "head of which is the brain. When processing is disorderly, the brain cannot do its most important job of organizing sensory messages. The child (and adult-my note) cannot respond to sensory information to behave in a meaningful, consistent way, He may also have difficulty using sensory information to plan and carry our actions that he needs to do. Thus, he may not learn easily."

She makes it clear that it is important to in determine if a person has SPD, or if that disorder is overlapping with a "look-alike" such as ADD/ADHD, PDD, Autism, Aspergers disorder or can involve processing sensory information, learning disabilities or anxiety based disorders. Accurate diagnosis is very important in order to determine the therapies to be involved. She goes on to explain that SPD

"is on a continuum..at one end of the continuum, some people have mild dysfunction that affects their self-regulation. At the other end of the continuum, many people with autism have severe sensory processing issues, further complicating their profound difficulties with learning, communication, and relationships. Along the SI continuum are those with ADHD, Asperger syndrome and other pervasive developmental delays. We know that SPD intensifies the bigger problems of children with the disorders, syndromes, and environmental conditions mentioned above. For all these children, remediation of their sensory issues through occupational therapy has an overall, positive effect."

SPD and the Trauma Connection

There is also a definitive connection not often mentioned in the literature about Trauma and SPD, suggesting that trauma resolution may be needed as part of the equation of therapy for SPD and other disorders as well. Often this is not considered and would likely come up in a Strategy Session, allowing qualified professional diagnosis to take place.

Dr. Robert Scaer, MD, neurologist and author of The Trauma Spectrum in an interview:

"Sensory Processing disorder is a prime example of kindling in a traumatized child."

Kindling is a term that refers to cumulative and sometimes ongoing trauma. He goes on to say throughout the interview:

"In fact, it ties closely to what is called ADHD. These kids showed exquisite abnormal hypersensitivity to any kind of stimuli: sound, touch, vision; they were over responsive to almost all sensory stimuli, and there was a group that was under responsive-where they simply sought sensory stimuli and were very hyper-active, intrusive...it is a dysregulation both with hyper-sensitivity and hypo-sensitivity to all of the sensations of the body...people began to realize this correlated with early childhood trauma. Once SPD was experienced in childhood, it becomes a typical feature of that person's adaptability throughout their life... This is basically a syndrome which is based on kindling and has this life span effect on a person's perception of their sensory input." (Trauma Wounds, Dissociation and Sensory Processing Disorder - interview with Robert Scaer MD, Ruth Buczynski, Ph.D)

Some SPD symptoms

Again, from Gwen Wild, OTR, MOT - sensationalbrain.com

Typical symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder include the following for children--- 
                (Including these descriptions for adults and teens to track their history)

infants who are "really easy" or "really difficult" - both extremes can indicate sensory issues

delayed development of motor skills and speech

picky eaters or cravings for a limited number of foods

touch avoidance, or touches EVERYTHING always

doesn't like feet off the ground, resists motion activities

seeks intense motion, often "crashes" onto floor or walls on purpose

walks on toes or with "heavy" footsteps

picky about clothing textures or chooses clothing based on how it "feels"

sensitive to odors in environment, or doesn't seem to notice smells at all

poor attention span

fussy, irritable, moody, anxious

easily overwhelmed in busy, noisy environments like birthday parties

frequent "melt-downs" that are out of proportion to the situation

hates hair-washing, hair cuts, nail-trimming, bathing

poor or delayed social skill development

These are just some of the more common symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder. SPD can be an umbrella term that encompasses several more specific sensory disorders. If you feel like you or a member of your family may have some of these symptoms that are interfering with quality of life, education, and more-- consult with me in a Strategy Session and with your doctor, occupational therapist or other professional trained in sensory integration disorders.

There are more details and descriptions on my SPD Sensory Diet and SPD Therapies page.

I can be found here and on: craniosacraltherapies.com

Victoria Behrends - RCSTĀ®, M.A., HHP, MH, BSP