The Truth About Sensory Processing Disorder
Getting Professional Help for SPD
Many providers, such as child psychiatrists or psychologists, may be willing to do a short "second opinion" consultation over the phone, says Kawa. "You can tell them that the school has brought up x, y, and z concerns about your child, and ask what they think. They may say that it sounds like you need an ADHD evaluation, or that it's 'typical boy stuff' and suggest waiting a few months to see if it's still a problem. Or they may tell you to come right in because it sounds like your child is really struggling."
To find a qualified child psychologist or psychiatrist, contact the nearest major medical center or use the search tool provided by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (www.aacap.org).
Since occupational therapy can cost thousands of dollars out of pocket, you're more likely to get insurance coverage for it if the referral comes from a pediatrician or a child psychologist or psychiatrist.
If your child does have sensory issues, Shaikh says, identifying them and intervening at an early age can be enormously helpful. "One child was just slamming into people, and [his parents] realized that he just needs to feel things pushing up against him," he recalls.
"Every once in a while, the school has him crawl through plastic tunnels back and forth on his hands and knees, to get that need for stimulus out of him, and then he goes back into class and does fine. If you're a kid who struggles with this, every part of the day can be a bit irritating. Getting his needs met by modifying his day can make a world of difference."
Durkin's son started a new school last fall, one that seems to be a better fit for his personality. But his year at the old school ended well, and the teachers didn't mention occupational therapy again.
"I know they had his best interests at heart," she says. "Some of the things they complained about early on, he'd already stopped doing. I think in a lot of kids, it's just a question of maturity. They don't all mature at the same pace, and that doesn't always mean there's anything wrong."
Does Your Child Need an SPD Diagnosis?
Maybe, maybe not. First, consider taking one or more of these steps to help him or her adjust to a school environment.
Discuss alternate activities. "You might just have a kid who isn't developmentally ready for a 20-minute circle time," says Kawa. "After 10 minutes, perhaps he can be allowed to go to a beanbag chair and look at a book."
Hold your child back from kindergarten. "Don't start him early, especially if he has a late summer or early fall birthday," Schinnerer advises. "Hold him out a year, let him be a kid and develop socially, mentally, and emotionally."