October is National Sensory Processing Awareness Month. During the entire month of October, many parents, educators, therapists and caregivers rally together to spread awareness of Sensory Processing and how it affects children and adults every single day. This might be the first time you are hearing this term, especially if you are new here, so let me give you a little background and tell you what sensory processing awareness month means to me.
In order to help you understand exactly what this month is about, I am going to share some basic information that you may or may not already know. My goal is to break this down so that this information is easy to understand and easy to share with others who may have never heard of sensory processing.
What is Sensory Processing?
Sensory Processing is the brains ability to process information from all of the senses (not just 5 of them), and connect that information with what we already know about the world around us.
We do not have just 5 senses like many of us were taught growing up. In fact, many neurologists identify up to nine (some even siting up to 21)! Crazy, right? You might be thinking… okay… I know 5. What are the others, I am missing?
The Most Important Sensory Systems Are:
Every human on this planet has these senses. Every single person is affected by their brain’s ability to properly process information from all of these systems and connect the input to what they already know.
Every one of us has certain preferences and challenges related to each of these senses that we have either learned to mask or self regulate OR we struggle with on a daily basis as we try to pretend it doesn’t exist.
These preferences and challenges can present themselves as “behaviors” that need to be fixed or remedied. However, all of these are normal functions of the brain and a very normal part of development and growth. We just need more awareness and understanding.
What happens when things aren’t that easy? What happens when things seem to not be connecting? What happens when the struggles are impeding on our daily life? Then, we have a bigger problem.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
We already talked about how sensory processing is the brain’s way of processing information from the senses and making sense of it to perform a function (riding a bike, sucking a straw, petting a dog).
Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition that exists when the brain is UNABLE to integrate and process the input it is receiving into appropriate responses. The signals get crossed and the responses get jammed.
“Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. 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.” ~ SPD Foundation
Why is Sensory Processing Awareness Important?
Every time I mention the words Sensory Processing, I either run into one of two answers… “What is that?” or “Oh yeah, I know someone with Sensory Processing Disorder.” Why is that? Why does it have to be that the only people that know about sensory processing and its extreme affects on us are people that know someone with struggles.
This has to change! Without awareness there will never be understanding or accepting. Unless we shout about sensory processing from the rooftops, the world will never understand Sensory Processing Disorder. More importantly, they will never understand those that suffer (both children and adults).
If you are not new here, you know that I share the story of parenting a son with Sensory Processing Disorder and the struggles we face. You know that I have struggled to find a way to explain our struggles and his to the world. Over the past three years, I have worked to understand sensory processing and how it affects all of us, so that I can better explain my son’s needs to others. Slowly but surely, I feel like I am getting my point across… one person at a time.
In fact, I recently published a new book about the subject, Sensory Processing 101. In this book, I worked with a team of pediatric therapists to describe sensory processing as it relates to all children. We worked tirelessly on finding down to earth ways to explain the terms and mixed those explanations with real stories from home and the classroom of children that struggled with sensory processing challenges.
I never saw myself as an advocate before now, but through the process, I have found my new life mission. I have decided I want to make “sensory processing” a household name. People everywhere will know there are NOT just 5 senses and will realize the importance of all of those senses. Sensory processing awareness month is important because it spreads that message one person at a time.
What Can You Do To Support Sensory Processing Awareness Month?
Great question! I am so glad you asked! There are actually a few things you can do! Here are my top 5 that I would hope everyone that reads this does.
1) Inform: Tell others that you learned there are more than 5 senses and how the senses play an important role in how we see and experience the world.
Some of my favorite posts about sensory processing:
What Does Sensory Processing Look Like? ~ Lemon Lime Adventures
5 Myths of Sensory Processing~ The Inspired Treehouse
Basics of Sensory Processing Disorder~ The Jenny Evolution
What is Sensory Processing Disorder~ Growing Hands On Kids
Here are some of my favorite sensory graphics to share as well:
Infographic about SPD ~ Northshore Pediatric Therapy
Quotes for Sensory Processing Awareness ~ Sensory Mom Secrets
Why Does My Kid Do That ~ Sensory World
Sensory Cheat Sheets ~ Sensory Processing 101
2) Make a Statement: This one isn’t that hard! Have you seen the latest trend to change your Facebook profile to support a cause? Why not paint Facebook blue for Sensory Processing Awareness Month? All you have to do is click here and follow the steps. At the end of the month, just choose your old profile picture or choose a new one.
3) Donate: SPD Foundation is the brain behind National Sensory Awareness Month. The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation is a world leader in SPD research, education, and advocacy. Your frequent and generous support helps them make a difference in the lives of the millions of children, adults, and families whose daily lives are chronically disrupted by the debilitating symptoms of SPD.
4) Learn and Share: The more you know, the more you can educate and spread the word about the Sensory Processing and SPD. I mentioned several site with great information earlier! In addition, for the month of October, our book Sensory Processing 101, is part of a limited time Ultimate Sensory Bundle. For every ebook you purchase, you will get a huge printable resource and our ebook, The Magic 7, FREE!
The number one complaint I hear in our sensory support group is “I wish others understood!” Well, this is your chance to be the change!