Good Question: What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When 10-year-old Owen Steuernagel was in the second grade, he had difficulty with his handwriting.
His teacher recommended an occupational therapist, who later told Owen’s parents their son had sensory-processing challenges.
“When something is super loud, sometimes the noise will be kind of like more annoying to my ears, and then it just really overwhelms me,” Owen said.
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is not an official medical diagnosis, but several experts think it should be.
Lynn Kopfmann, director of the Therapy Place in Bloomington, has been working in occupational therapy for 40 years.
“We can diagnose it and we can treat it, and many insurance companies cover services for it,” Kopfmann said.
The disorder has been described as a “traffic jam” in the brain. It’s a neuro-physiological disorder where the information is scrambled once it gets to the brain and can’t be interpreted correctly. The symptoms can range from mild to incapacitating.
Kopfmann says SPD can affect children and adults and manifests itself differently in every person. In some cases, it could be an over-response to touch, where even normal touches are painful. For others, it’s a sensitivity to light, the feel of food in a person’s mouth or even to a sense of place.
“You might not know where you are on the ground. Once your feet get off the ground, you can be very gravitationally insecure,” Kopfmann said. “It can be scary.”
Kopfmann says the condition is often misconstrued as misbehavior, when it’s actually a reaction to what the person is feeling.