Inside you’ll find: Practical advice for Dads to help in understanding Sensory Processing Disorder and relating to their kids.
Disorder. Ok, wow. That’s quite a descriptive and discouraging word.
Sensory Processing Disorder. Well, now that just sounds bad.
So, if you’re a dad reading this, it’s probably because your wife has turned a computer screen toward you, or pointed at her phone and said, “Read this”. I’m also going to assume that you’re a conscientious Dad that cares about and wants the best for your kids. So what do Dads need to know about Sensory Processing Disorder?
Now if your wife is anything like mine, ever since she found out there was a possibility that your child has SPD, she has been doing quite a lot of research. And if your wife is like mine (even if she hasn’t devoted an entire website to SPD), and you’ve been married for more than say, 5 minutes, then you know that that trend is not likely to change.
Alright, but let’s be real. While my kid is a handful, all their senses work just fine, right? Can they really have a disorder?
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition in which the brain does not decipher certain sensory input effectively. ei., the brain is too sensitive to some sensations and not sensitive enough to others.
So unlike how it sounds, SPD has less to do with your child’s ability to use their senses, and more to do with how their brain handles the information received from their senses. Sometimes their brain may be overloading them with one type of input at the expense of another.
Does your child seem to ignore you when you are trying to get their attention in a crowded area? You know they are able to hear normally. Why aren’t they responding? It could be that they are getting so much spacial or tactile input that their brain just doesn’t have the room to process auditory sensations.
Yes, their ears are working fine. But they still can’t hear you.
Sensory Processing Disorder can be very tricky to recognize. SPD is sensitive to normal, everyday circumstances. It closely resembles behavioral challenges that are common to all children. It also can manifest in unpredictable ways.
Sensory Processing Disorder takes hard work and thoughtfulness on the part of both parents to manage effectively.
As parents, we all know that raising children is not for the faint-hearted. There is no other job with responsibilities and challenges that are quite like it. However, knowing our children is half the battle, and I’d like to help you with that process.
The best place to really get educated about sensory issues and get your family on the right track is Sensory Parenting 101. It’s an Ecourse that you can take at your leisure and refer to again and again. It educates and guides you in putting together a strategy to help everybody deal with SPD.
Right now though, I would like to tell you about the three things you HAVE TO KNOW up front. Again, this is for dads. While it may be helpful for moms to consider the principles, I know (from experience) that dads come at SPD from a different perspective, and I want to speak to that.
SPD is a Real Condition
Sensory Processing Disorder is not a cop-out to explain away your child’s behavior or to give excuse for the difficulty of raising your kid(s). Don’t be fooled. There are real developmental processes that are affecting your child. It is not just a phase. It is not just a personality trait.
Ok so, if you take nothing else away from this, please listen to what I am about to tell you. Dads, please don’t make the mistake I often made/make, and presume that your child’s contrary behavior is a result of stubbornness or defiance on their part. I’m not saying that they are not capable of such behavior, but if your child is struggling SPD then just “putting your foot down” like I have tried to do, will only make things worse. Please consider instead offering the sensory input your child is needing.
Also consider things from your kid’s perspective. In the example above we talked about the child who isn’t responding to you in the context of a crowded or noisy environment. How is that child going to feel if, as they see it, you start disciplining them out of the blue because they are unresponsive?
More than that, sensory behaviors often manifest as fight or flight responses. When that happens, your child is already under stress. Please don’t come down on them when they are trying to escape or deal with their situation.
Do you see what I’m trying to say? If you try and assert your authority over sensory behavior, your child might very well only see it as an additional threat.
I know you don’t want your child to see you that way. I know that you what to be an advocate and refuge for your child.
So Dad, I need to you to do something scary. I need you to join me in putting authority on the back burner. Instead, let’s work with our partners to step into our children’s world.
A Label is Not a Curse
I think it is highly important to see a professional to determine whether or not your child has sensory needs in the first place. SPD, especially if you are not educated on the topic, is not obvious or easily discernible. A medical professional or Occupational therapist really is needed to give confirmation either way.
Please do not mistake getting an official diagnosis to be a stigma, or a hindrance. The temptation here is for you to say, “There is nothing wrong with my kid”, or “My kid is not ‘Special Needs’”.
This may be difficult, but you are going to have to put your own insecurities aside in order to get your child the help they need. You’re right. There’s nothing “wrong” with them, but you are going to have to acknowledge that your child is going to need some simple treatment exercises and lifestyle adjustments. They are also going to need you to change your way of thinking to allow you to understand how their brain works.
You Need to be on Board
I just talked about adjusting your thinking to help provide support for your child. You will also need to be ready to support your spouse. As in all parenting, you will need to be consistent. Your wife can’t be operating in one strategy while you are dismissing that strategy for another. ie., don’t try adjusting your child’s behavior while your spouse is attempting to provide sensory stimulation. Get on the same page and develop a game plan you can both agree on and stick to!
Sensory Parenting 101 was made for just that. To get your family working together to help your child handle the world around them.
There are a lot of things to learn about SPD. I know having these three perspectives will help your family thrive on this difficult but rewarding journey.
Have more questions??? Check out this wildly popular series of Sensory FAQs and become a more confident sensory parent today!