I’m going to write this from personal point of view and although maybe not as comprehensive as an objective list of symptoms, I’m hoping it will be more interesting and add a bit more context. Staggeringly, I was only recognised as having difficulty with my sensory processing by a Neurologist around 2 years ago (age 32) and even though I’ve read a lot about people with SPD and chatted online, I’ve not met anyone else with it yet.
Things I’m Under Sensitive To….
Touch. I love the feel of smooth shiny things like those posh granite work tops and PVC handbags.
Speed and Movement. I could travel in a sports car and zoom around corners at incredibly high speed or do doughnuts and it would just be so much fun. Yay – speed in a horizontal kind of way!
Pain. I can bump into things or fall over and it’s more annoying and frustrating rather than painful. I’ve dropped things onto my foot and crashed into things, had injections and blood taken and the people around me have cringed more than I have. Saying that, paper cuts and mild cramp feel so painful to me!
Pain. ‘Shouldn’t this pan be hotter by now?’…. …. …. ‘Shit it really is, ouch!’
Touch and Pressure. I like big hugs and I cannot lie (sorry for the Sir Mix-a-lot ref), big giant bear hugs that squeeze me. Usually I’ve barley comprehended the lighter hugs before the person steps back, so it’s like I’ve just missed it. Strangely, it also relaxes my muscles and calms me down almost instantly if I’m stressing out. Cows also like this as well apparently – but I’m not going cow hugging just yet.
Taste and Pressure I like my food either savoury and spicy or rich and creamy. I was in my early 20’s until I learned to appreciate subtler flavours and textures. As a kid I always smothered everything in HP sauce! I also love crunchy food and as a kid I was quite bitey – objects not people!
Touch and Pressure. When people go to the hairdressers and complain that they were getting quite head-sore because the hairdresser wasn’t gentle enough. I have no clue what they are talking about. Again that kind of thing relaxes me so much I feel all floppy and sleepy.
Smell. I often think ‘This perfume smell nice, I’ll just add a bit more of it so I can really smell it.’ Then I wonder why people practically faint when they enter the room. At least I never fell foul of the old “Who ever smelt it dealt it” fart rule.
Touch and Pressure. I absolutely love tight clothes because they are against my skin (unless the weather is incredibly hot) why would I want my body to feel awkward and ‘lost’ inside my clothes?
Auditory. You can be chatting with me and I’ll be interested but then almost subconsciously I’ll tune out your voice and pick up on some other noise instead. The tone of mens voices and traffic noise just blend together a lot of the time for me – sorry guys! I do listen but don’t always understand the word someone just said even though I heard it, especially if they speak quickly and change subjects rapidly or with a sudden short sentence. I’m really bad at remembering what was said as a result.
Touch and Pressure. Don’t give me a wine glass if you are expecting me to get progressively drunk as I’ll put it down too hard and break the stem and most of the glass probably.
Touch and Pressure. When I’m struggling with something – for instance closing a door that’s a little un-aligned – and I loose patience and try really hard that door will accidentally be slammed loudly and with a ridiculous amount of force. “Gaaah!”
Touch and Pressure. I tend to drop things because I’ve forgot how tight I’m meant to be holding the bloody thing according to it’s weight and shape.
Touch and pressure. Y’know those kids in junior/high school that were definitely not bullies but they always went too far with practical jokes or play fighting? That was me – oops!
Things I’m Over Sensitive To…..
Touch and Texture. I want to punch the manufacturer who started the trend of sewing nylon labels into the back of jumpers etc. Why not just use pokey, scratchy sandpaper instead?
Light. Have you ever watched the film Gremlins where little Gizmo is saying in an adorable little voice “Bright light, bright light!” For me it’s more of an “Argh, I can barley see anything. My eyes have a headache. Are you blind? No light needs to be that bright surely?”
Noise. Things that are high-pitched like unhappy babies screaming and tram and bus brakes, children and/or drunk people with whistles and loud screechy or very ‘busy’ music like acid jazz. Horrendous, like it’s right inside my brain!
Temperature. My Kryptonite is THE COLD or the false sensation of it on certain bits of exposed skin. Even on a mild day, if I have a centimetre gap between my boot and jeans I feel cold, even when I’m in doors! I know it’s not real but tell that to the rest of my brain. Brrr!
Touch. OK this part is kind of nice- in small doses. All of me can be ticklish but in a goose bumpy way – not a ‘stop this strange and unusual punishment!’ kind of way which most people get.
Movement. Rollercoasters or high-spead lift that suddenly drop, or even small trampolines.
Processing and understanding. New situations I have to suddenly adjust to and intuitively pick up on are pretty bewildering to be honest. I mean how the hell am I supposed to just know what I’m meant to be doing? Some signage or instructions are always welcome!
Texture. It took me until I was in my late 20’s before I could eat rough ‘foresty’ foods like steamed broccoli, kale or rocket. I also hated ‘squidgy’ food, primarily cooked mushrooms. I love them now though but had to practice to get used to the texture.
Visual. Spiky things. Luckily for me who’s A/W wardrobe is mainly inspired by punk and rock it’s only increadibly fine spikes that I find freaky. Spikes that are pushing through something make me want to throw up. Yup. Or the sound of creepy crawlies, y’know that popular sound effect they use in sci-fi and horror films far to often? OMG when a TV screen goes half pixelated so you can still see a distorted image of the person, my skin just crawls!
Where SPD Overlaps With Dyspraxia
Judgment of Speed, Height, Weight, Mass. My judgment on these things tends to be laughably incorrect a lot of the time. Not great for crossing roads quickly but good for accidentally flattering people – or insulting them.
Spacial Awareness. Mine is bobins! This effects knocking things over, tripping over things, forgeting what is behind me in the room, missjugding how close I am to an object. Which way I am facing in the building in relation to where it’s positioned (hospitals and colleges are fun for this.)
SPD – Who and Why?
A person can just have SPD without having any other disorders, however it can be difficult to diagnose someone with SPD (especially if they are under and over sensitive to different things) so a lot of the time it gets recognised in people who have other conditions such as Autism, Asperger’s, Dyspraxia, Mosaic (high functioning) Downes Syndrome or nuero-degenerative conditions such as MS.
Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation website Helpful but USA based.
Amazingly the NHS website had no info on Sensory Processing Disorder only Auditory.
I hope this helps someone to understand someone with SPD a little better or themselves even!
Note: Credit to Kelly Dillon & Rachel S. Schnieder for this fantastic poster!