Ask Doug: Sensory Processing Disorder

Doug Berry
Doug Berry.

Hi Doug.
MY son is six years old and ever since he was younger we could tell that he had a dislike for loud noises. When he was around two years old, we took him for a brain assessment and monitored him overnight to see if there was epilepsy as he used to have a very slight head tick. This stopped a week after the assessment and they also never found any signs of epilepsy. I still have a concern, whenever he enters a new environment or a place that could have loud noises he automatically covers his ears.

Just recently we went to the beach to do a world record in castle building and while we were all standing on the beach enjoying ourselves a helicopter came low flying over head.
I turned to him and all I saw was this little boy going into panic mode, hands over ears and frozen and crying. He was in absolute fear.

I took him to one of the tents and tried to calm him down but even though there was no threat he could not get himself to understand he was in no danger.

That was the first serious incident. Next we went to the Sharks Rugby Game and he was in the Garvz Academy Programme where the kiddies sit together and go onto the field to give the players some refreshments.
He refused to participate as he saw that fireworks were going to go off and the kids were too loud and all over the place.

I explained to him that they won’t be too loud and he can stay by me, but still he covered his ears and cried and panicked.

I am seriously concerned with this as it is affecting him socially. He does not wish to participate in anything and other kids look at him and watch his behaviour. I need to know what do I need to have tested.
He is a very social, active, loud kid but I fear that this will hold him back as he is hesitant to try new things or be in groups of people as everything seems overwhelming and loud. Please help.

Doug replies:

Poor young man.It sounds like he has a degree of sensory integration or sensory processing difficulty.

The type of auditory overstimulation you describe can be a marker for a number of different difficulties. In other words, without a full medical history, it is unwise to guess, but it can be associated with ADHD and other spectrum disorders (not to say that this is the case here), or it can be a marker for something known as sensory processing disorder.

Sensory Processing Disorder can affect people in only one sense – for example, just touch or just sight or just movement – or in multiple senses. One person with SPD may over-respond to sensation and find clothing, physical contact, light, sound, food, or other sensory input to be unbearable. Another might under-respond and show little or no reaction to stimulation, even pain or extreme hot and cold.

A specialist paediatrician, educational psychologist or specialist occupational therapist is likely to be the way to go. I took the liberty of contacting the South African Institute for Sensory Integration and they have forwarded me the following contact details for you:

Claire Barrett, Occupational Therapist, 031 572 5344.

Jane Caroline Bainbridge, Specialty: Occupational Therapist, 031 266 6047.

I hope this has been of help, but please don’t hesitate to contact me , should you need further clarification or suggestions.

Doug Berry, Neurofeedback practitioner, professional registered counsellor and facilitator of EQ Advantedge Course

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