How to Help a Child with SPD

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How to Help a Child with SPD

how to help a child with spd

This post is very different than what we usually share. It’s different from anything I’ve ever written. Today, I’m going to share the story of my 10 year old and our journey through life with sensory processing disorder (SPD). It most likely isn’t applicable to 95% of our readers, but maybe this is what the other 5% are looking for. There isn’t a cure for sensory processing disorder and you can’t make it go away, but you can find adaptations to get through life.

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder is still relatively new and in the medical world some still don’t recognize it as being a real thing. Our pediatrician told us that my son didn’t have SPD because “those kids are weird ducks and you can spot them clear across the room”. This is after we had an official diagnosis. Weird duck, right here! In the world of sensory kids there are the seekers and the avoiders. Seekers need different things than avoiders. I have an avoider. I feel that avoiders get less attention because they’re in the back, against the wall…well, just avoiding life.

My son was diagnosed with slight to definite disfunction in 7 of the senses. And you thought we only had 5 senses, nope there are actually 8:

  1. Visual (sight)
  2. Auditory (sound)
  3. Olfactory (smell)
  4. Gustatory (taste)
  5. Tactile (touch)
  6. Vestibular (balance and orientation)
  7. Proprioceptive (muscle/joint movement)
  8. Interoception

how to help a child with sensory processing disorder

Autism and SPD

Ever since he was a pre-schooler I felt something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I would spend nights googling oddities hoping to find answers. Every time I was lead to Autism, which makes sense because a lot of individuals on the Autism spectrum also have SPD, but not all with SPD are on the spectrum. After reading countless Autism checklists, I never felt like that’s what we were dealing with. I had never heard of SPD, and it was my sister who steered us in that direction. The “authorities” often think it could be Autism as well, but professional screenings have ruled it out on multiple occasions.

Getting Answers

If you have any question as to whether your son or daughter may have SPD I highly recommend reading The Out of Sync Child. Your local library probably has a copy you can check out. I read it aloud with my husband and it was obvious this is what we were dealing with. If we hadn’t read the book together I think it would have been a lot harder to convince my husband that this was the issue. If you are curious, you can find the red flags of SPD here. I think it is safe to say that all of us have some level of SPD, but when these issues prevent us from normal daily activities they are then a problem.



No matter what your child is dealing with, I want you to know you are the only advocate your child has so keep looking for help and keep fighting for them. One thing I’ve learned is that no one else is going to push for your child. Sure, if he/she is a behavior problem or falling behind in school the school may try to help but they have a lot of kids to worry about. So if your child and you aren’t the squeaky wheel they will focus on a bigger and louder problem. If you are concerned about your child you can request testing through the school, or you can take them to a pediatric occupational therapist outside of the school for help. A lot of people don’t realize you can receive therapy outside of the school. Just don’t give up. If you can’t afford therapy, you should read The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun  it is full of activities for sensory kids that I found to be very helpful. (I feel like I need to disclose that this post is in no way sponsored or affiliated with the author. These books have played an important part in our understanding of SPD and I recommend them to anyone with questions.)


We have found a fantastic team of occupational, physical and speech therapists and after 3 years of continuous therapy he has passed all of his goals! We have found solutions and work arounds to most of life’s problems, his confidence has grown, and he is able to experience life with the rest of the family.



It has taken a lot of work and determination (on all of our parts) but he has accomplished milestones some thought were impossible. He can ride a bike and swim! He also loves snow skiing and is thriving in a dual immersion school program learning a second language. I am a huge believer that the brain can be exercised and strengthened and change over time and we are seeing that with him!rad



If you are curious of how to implement therapy at home I’ve created a list of products we used to create an at home therapy gym for sensory processing disorder.

How to make a SPD home therapy gym

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  1. My 5 year old son also has spd. Next year he will start kindergarten and there is a charter school nearby that does Spanish immersion. I would love for him to go there but I have been hesitant since he has such a hard time focusing. He hates going to preschool and I don’t want him to have a bad experience with school. He is super smart though! How long has your son been in the immersion program? Any advice? I know every kid is different, I just don’t know of any other kids with spd that have been in an immersion program.

    1. Oh boy, I feel like I need a disclaimer on this comment, just because this topic has result in yelling fights between professionals in every single one of our IEP meetings. And I have a lot of opinions about it! There isn’t a lot of research on how child with special needs do in dual immersion programs. There is even less research in the type of auditory processing deficit my son has and dual immersion. So some think we are ruining him for life and others think it is good for him. This is his 4th year in dual immersion and his teacher the 1st year said it best when he said, “Hey if your son lived in a different country and was learning a different language than English, he would still have the same disabilities. Disabilities aren’t linked to a language. So a speech problem in English is still a speech problem in Brazil. Your child would have the same disabilities in a different country, the language doesn’t matter.”
      Our son is also very intelligent, and I think learning a 2nd language challenges which is part of the reason we have kept him in. I also think learning a 2nd language is working his brain in different ways than it normally works, and whenever we have a chance of helping his brain develop we go for it.
      I don’t know your child or your situation, but I would encourage you to go for it. If it doesn’t work you can always pull him out. From what I understand, the only time a school will remove a child from dual immersion is if the language is preventing the child from learning subject matter. Like if the Spanish were to prevent your son from learning math, then they would take him out. If you have more questions I’d love to answer them!

      1. Thank you so much! It is so reassuring to know that people out there are struggling with some of the same challenges we are. And thank you for sharing your opinion on the dual languages, that is such a good point that they are going to have their challenges regardless of which language they speak. Thank you thank you 😊

  2. I wanted to thank you for your post (which I bookmarked several months ago). My 7 year old son has been through years of testing which left me with everything he is NOT dealing with and verification that he is “dealing with something.” After reading your post, I bought the book and demanded a referral from the Pediatrician to an OT. Everything makes so much more sense now! He is currently being treated for SPD and is going to OT, Speech therapy, and Vision therapy! (It’s a lot of work!). There is still a lot of room to grow, but in just a short amount of time he has been able to dress himself alone, throw a ball, complete basic chores and even pump himself on a swing! I am starting to see improvements at school too and we have a much more accurate IEP now. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! for introducing me to something that has allowed my child to go from the “falling between the cracks” type of kid, to a kid who can better cope with and enjoy life.

    1. This mama is celebrating with you! No child should ever fall through the cracks! I’m proud of you for not giving up, he is going to be great because he has you!

  3. Congrats! This is an encouraging post. I am a pediatric OT and crafting chick too. 😉 SPD is not well understood and I am glad to hear you found your way to intervention and support to help your son and your family thrive.
    You referenced the SPD Foundation which is great because they are a wonderful resource for information and treatment if families are able to make their way to Denver. thabjs for sharing your journey!

  4. Nikkala thank you for your post on the home gym. We are just getting started with an OT. All suggestions are great to find which things will work best for our kids. I was wondering on your child’s IEP what kinds of things that entails to help him at school? Thank you for your time.

    1. Hi Susan,
      My SPD guy just finished 6th grade. Honestly there isn’t much in his IEP to help him like you would think. His auditory processing deficit is what we have learned is his biggest hurdle in school. All the other’s he is getting better at regulating and we have gotten much better to see when he is overstimulated. At school the accommodations are all for auditory processing – like the teachers wear microphones, his type of APD makes it almost impossible for him to take notes off a board, or even from the paper sitting on his desk, so they don’t demand him to take notes or even appear to be listening. He works with a speech language pathologist to learn some coping skills in the classroom. He doesn’t use those skills regularly on his own-only when she is with him. Hopefully one day he’ll use what he’s got! If we start noticing he needs some help at home we will head to the swimming pool. It is an activity that helps him, as well as snow skiing. Snow skiing is his favorite and helps him sooo much! I think we’re the only people that wished it snowed year round! He is so on when he is skiing, it’s actually amazing – his teachers every year comment “He has been doing so well in school until about March and then we don’t know what happened.” Oh, we know, the snow melted! We try to get him on the mountain 3 times a week which is dedication, but an activity no one in the family seems to mind 😉 Luckily we only live 15 minutes from a resort.
      Good luck in your journey and I hope you find what your child needs!

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