Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses (WebMD).
While not recognized as an official medical diagnosis, SPD is becoming more and more prevalent in pediatric offices. And there are many other cases where children are having sensory processing issues that go undiscovered.
What Exactly IS Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory Processing Disorder exists when sensory signals are either not detected or don’t get organized into appropriate responses. The nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you’re driving a car, eating a meal or listening to music, your completion of the action requires detailed processing of sensation.
Our senses don’t just tell our brain about the world around us, they also drive the development of new brain connections in important ways.
Children with SPD often have sensory information coming in that feels overwhelming. Normal sounds that wouldn’t bother someone who does not have sensory processing disorder can be super loud and painful to a child with SPD. This is often true for textures as well. Many children with SPD are highly sensitive to to the physical touch so normal things like clothing against their skin, brushing their hair and physical contact can be unbearable.
In some cases, it appears that children who have SPD seems as if they are getting TOO MUCH sensory information, while others are receiving TOO LITTLE.
When a child suffers from a sensorimotor disorder like dyspraxia, they often have uncontrolled and uncoordinated movements. They may also exhibit behaviors like flapping their hands, shaking their legs, or other repetitive motions. These behaviors, also known as ‘stimming’, are a mechanism by which children are attempting to help balance sensory information that is overwhelming and to feed the brain positive, calming information.
Many children with SPD who undergo chiropractic care have tremendous improvements in their sensory processing issues. Children that could not handle loud environments or the tags on their clothing against their skin often are able to deal with both after undergoing chiropractic treatments.
How are these issues related to chiropractic?
A vertebral subluxation (a misaligned vertebrae) sends improper information into the brain. Proprioception (the sense of where we are in space) is actually our most important sense.
In his book, Neurobehavioral Disorders of Childhood: An Evolutionary Perspective, Dr. Robert Melillo discusses how crucial this sense is to drive healthy brain development.
When a child has a vertebral subluxation, it causes incorrect information to be sent to the brain along various proprioceptive pathways. In the scientific community, this is called dysafferentation. When a child’s brain is not getting accurate information from their environment, it becomes much harder for them to regulate their senses.
By giving children with SPD chiropractic care and making any necessary adjustments, we are able to make sure that their spines and nervous system are free from the devastating effects of vertebral subluxation, therefore allowing the information traveling from their senses to their brains is as healthy as possible.