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The Chicago Tribune (10/18, Chan, http://tinyurl.com/SPD-DSM5) reported that the rate of Sensory Processing Disorder is on the rise.  To have sensory processing disorder, experts say there must be a significant effect on daily routine.  The disorder is usually found in children, though adults can have it, too.  “Everything’s coming in and getting messed up for them,” said Heidi Tringali, a Charlotte, N.C., occupational therapist who sees a lot of children with sensory issues.  “It tastes too strong, smells too strong.  They’re just disrupted – and their existence is so much more difficult than just a typical developing child.”

There have been few published studies on the prevalence of SPD.  But one study done in association with the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation estimates that one in six children is affected by sensory issues, which can range from mild to severe.  However, SPD has not yet been officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. It’s important to note the differences between a child with sensory processing disorder and a child who’s just picky or problematic, experts say.  For example, a typical child who steps from an air-conditioned room outside into the heat may whine and complain for a bit.  But for a child with sensory problems, it can be almost unbearable.  Kids can be clumsy, but children with sensory problems may struggle in vain to write with a pencil because the motor skills are just so off. Academic and social problems often ensue.  Sensory processing problems occur when the brain’s neurons can’t correctly interpret incoming signals, said Lucy Jane Miller, executive director of the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation in Colorado.  When the signals are mixed up, that affects the senses of touch, movement and balance, and space, she said.  In the sensory processing world, these are known as the tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive systems.  But there’s no cure for sensory processing disorder. Rather, occupational therapists help patients learn to cope.

The SPD Foundation is trying to get the disorder recognized in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” the official catalog of mental disorders. The next edition, known as the DSM-5, comes out in 2013.  Sensory processing disorder is divided into three categories.  The first comprises sensory over- and under-responders and sensory seekers _ people who may over react or under react to pain or noise, and people who may seek out bear hugs and crave lots of motion. The second includes people with sensory motor disorders, who may seem clumsy and uncoordinated.  The third encompasses people who have trouble discriminating between the different senses.  Recommended therapy includes weekly (if not more frequent) sessions and daily sensory “diets” that involve brushing the limbs with a surgical brush, putting tension on joints, doing exercises and doing heavy work to stimulate muscles and joints.

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