Do Sensory Processing Disorders Get Better Over Time?
If you or someone you love struggles with a sensory processing disorder, you may be wondering whether or not these issues get better or worse over time. The fact of the matter is that sensory processing disorders can vary widely in their severity, and whether or not they become less prevalent over time is highly dependent on the person they’re affecting, whether they’ve been diagnosed and if they’ve received treatment.
What Is A Sensory Processing Disorder?
Every day our brains process tons of information without us even realizing it. For most people, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and physical sensations are all organized by our brains in a way that helps us make sense of the world around us. If you hear the sound of a car approaching, you know instinctively that you need to stand clear of the street before crossing it. You probably also easily tune out the sounds of your office or of a crowded department store.
For individuals living with a sensory processing disorder, even getting ready for work can be a challenge. Sensory processing disorders or SPDs are conditions in which the brain doesn’t organize external stimuli properly. As is the case, individuals living with SPDs may not respond or act normally to casual everyday situations. This can manifest as an oversensitivity to certain stimuli, or a lack of response thereof.
When Do Sensory Processing Disorders Develop?
Usually, sensory processing disorders present as early as infancy and evolve over time as children begin to experience the world around them. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 1 in 20 people have some sort of sensory processing issue. SPDs can follow an individual into adulthood and may change over time.
Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorders
The symptoms of SPDs can vary widely and encompass any variety or combination of senses. When we talk about senses, we’re speaking more specifically about seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling (or touching). Symptoms of SPDs fall loosely into two different categories: Over-responsiveness or under-responsiveness.
Symptoms of Over-Responsiveness
- Extreme sensitivity to sounds - Any sound can be a trigger. Many people dislike the sound of nails on a chalkboard or of styrofoam rubbing together, but for someone living with SPDs, this could be as mundane as the sound of running water, the buzzing of bugs, or other noises that most people tune out. This can also include hearing background noises that others don’t seem to hear.
- Fearful of touch - Many people like their own space, but sometimes even being touched, especially when it’s unexpected can cause a severe reaction in someone living with SPD.
- Fear of crowds - The majority of people can navigate through a crowded room, park, grocery store, or other places where crowds may gather. But for someone living with sensory processing disorders, a crowd might seem like a forest of triggers just waiting to happen.
- Sensitivity to light - Individuals who are sensitive to light may avoid leaving their homes on days that are too sunny, or be sensitive to certain kinds of light such as fluorescent lights you commonly find in department stores or office buildings.
- Aversion to certain materials - If you’ve ever been slightly annoyed by a chaffing tag in your clothing, then you understand how annoying this sensory issue can be. But it doesn’t stop at tags. People living with SPDs might also avoid certain materials like wool, or prefer loose clothing to tight clothing.
Symptoms of Under-Responsiveness
- Extreme affinity for touch - Some individuals may have a desire to be touched or to be touching something or someone to an obsessive degree, even when it might not be appropriate to be doing so.
- Difficulty understanding personal space - People experiencing SPDs may not have a sense of personal space when their peers do.
- Inability to stay balanced/clumsy - This trait actually affects both people experiencing hypersensitivity and those with hyposensitivity.
- Difficulty gauging pressure - This trait can be particularly problematic because it often means that an individual doesn’t understand their own strength and may hurt others or animals by accident.
- Thrill-seeking or dangerous behaviors - These kinds of tendencies can cause real harm to the person struggling with a trait like this, in part because many individuals with under-responsive tendencies also have an unusually high pain tolerance and may not know or understand or realize that they’ve hurt themselves.
Treating Sensory Processing Disorders
Treating sensory processing disorders is complex because each individual is different. However, the majority of treatment plans involve therapy at one level or another and more often than not, lifestyle changes. Medication isn’t usually involved in the treatment of SPDs.
Improvement Over Time
While not everyone seeks treatment for sensory processing disorders, opting for therapy and lifestyle adjustments can greatly help people overcome or lessen the effects of SPDs. Many people report that as they grow into adulthood, sensory coping skills can improve especially as they become more aware of their environments, people, and develop their own routines.
Learn More About Baddour
At The Baddour Center, we’ve met people who come from all walks of life. We’re passionate about helping people with a variety of disabilities live fulfilling, independent lives full of friendship, enrichment, and fun. We serve as an educational resource and advocate for families who are looking to help their loved ones live their lives to the fullest! For more information, contact us or schedule a tour.