Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) affects children to become overly sensitive or under sensitive towards different stimuli affecting the senses. This disorder is commonly associated with autism spectrum disorder but it can affect children and even through adulthood with accompanying co-morbidities. It is frequently diagnosed in preschool age.
Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly.”
“These kids are not breaking down in school because their parents are doing a bad job or because they are bad kids. Their brains are wired differently,” says Elysa Marco, MD, a cognitive and behavioral pediatric neurologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.
It is challenging for parents and teachers to rear a child with sensory processing disorder – changes, adaptation, and modifications are done to limit stimuli and help the child lead a healthy life as much as possible since the disorder can carry on up to adulthood. Sensory Processing Disorder also plays a crucial part in different milestones as the child grows. The developmental milestone significantly affected in adulthood is establishing meaningful relationships. Relationships are inherently tricky and take in the mix of sensory processing disorder, make it into a different ball game. Successful relationships of individuals with SPD are possible, but it takes a lot of patience and commitment.
Sensory Processing Disorder is like experiencing the extreme or downgraded version of a particular stimulus. Imagine intolerance to wearing clothes with tag labels, itchy stitches, and inner linings and removing them one by one because the itch is intense or inability to enjoy concerts, big gatherings, and parades because it is too crowded and the noise is too extreme.
“For adults with SPD, small and sometimes not so small irritants feel unbearable and intolerable,” shares Dr. Robyne Howard, PsyD, owner and founder of Lakefront Counseling Group Ltd. “SPD affects how the brain absorbs information from our body’s receptors; our sin, joints, eyes, ears, nose.”
This is what a person with sensory processing disorder feels, and due to these reasons, it can be challenging to connect with others and dating can be complicated. From an online counseling site, here are a few tips on how to deal with a person with SPD if you are currently dating one:
Change the Mindset
Maybe because of your partner or friend, you have read facts or research on the condition. Information online gives you an overview of the overall state, its signs, and symptoms. Take the time to get to know the person. Keeping in mind that he/she is unique. When choosing a place to hang out or activities to do, consider the preference of the person and communicating with him/her is perfectly okay. Ask for his/her suggestions and take cues from previous conversations.
In school, we are taught that humans have five senses, but in reality, we have eight senses. And the not so popular ones are the proprioceptive system (body awareness), vestibular system (balance) and interceptive system (state of internal organs). Adults with SPD experience a range of sensation which means the body may over-respond or under-respond to particular stimuli. For example, your friend or partner is not very keen on crowded and repetitive noise, but you would like to work out together, then, maybe arrange a time slot where it is less crowded.
Your friend or partner might have a particular dietary plan to regulate their bodily responses. Be supportive of their dietary restrictions. Do not sabotage it by forcing him/her to try a new restaurant that uses ingredients that he/she avoids. Be adventurous within the allowed food selection. Nutrient-rich and natural food is always a good idea.
Change Of Plans
Do daily check-in with your partner about their sensation level. According to research, there are fluctuations in the experience of these sensations. Always be prepared to cancel or postpone plans depending on how they currently feel.
Seek Help Through Counseling
Like any other relationship, at times, problems and issues cannot be solved just by the couple involved. Don’t be ashamed to seek help from professionals.