October is National Sensory Awareness Month. As part of this national education effort, Inside Bainbridge is publishing a series on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), citing the latest research, information from experts in the field, and personal stories from parents, caregivers, and kids affected by the condition in our own community.

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Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) takes many forms, but the guiding experience for those with the condition is a difference of perception. People with SPD have a neurological makeup that causes them to process sensory information differently than most people do. This can create confusion and misunderstanding for those with SPD as well as for those interacting with them. People with SPD often struggle with the dissonance between their own perceptions and the perceptions of others. This dissonance can be painful and isolating for people with SPD, but it also can offer insights that only come with an altered perspective.

Emma’s Story

Bainbridge Island, Washington, third grader Emma has a form of SPD that falls primarily within the SPD subcategory sensory modulation disorder. Because she is hypersensitive to her surroundings and has trouble filtering sensory input, she at times appears underresponsive, especially in the area of auditory functioning. When people speak to her, she often requires things repeated once or more before she can focus and register what has been said. Her parents say they must repeat things to her at home to get her to “tune in.”

“Why Can’t They Just Wait a Second for Me to Say It?”

But Emma’s auditory processing difference isn’t merely a delay in receiving auditory input. It also is challenging for her to form a timely response. She says that in class other kids jump in to answer questions for her that she knows the answer to because she is a beat or two behind with her answers. This makes her angry, and she wonders, “why can’t they just wait a second for me to say it?” Her parents, Iris and Jesse, report that she struggles with feeling “stupid” and sometimes hits herself in frustration…

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