Getting “Used To It”- How SPD affects me

Since I read a lot of blog posts related to Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), I have seen many people’s descriptions of what SPD is:

“The sensory sliders in my brain are all over the place.”

“My sensory cup is too big for some senses and too small for others.”

“Everything is multiplied for me.”

These are all good descriptions of SPD, but I wanted to think of a quick one. A simple one. One that would help people that had no prior knowledge of SPD know how oversensitivity feels.

I don’t get used to things.

This would be my description of oversensitivity; meaning my body is extra sensitive to certain sensory input. Oversensitivity isn’t the only way that SPD affects me, but it is the one I have to explain to other people most frequently.

Most people get used to unpleasant sensory input after a bit, but I don’t. It will either stay at the same discomfort level or get worse.

Most people get used to the way the tag on their shirt rubs against their skin after a few minutes. I don’t.

Most people get used to the noise of the party after a few minutes. I don’t.

Most people get used to the bright fluorescent lights in Target after a few minutes. I don’t

Most people get used to the mushy texture of rice after a few bites. I don’t.

Most people get used to the smell of Lysol in a recently cleaned room after a few minutes. I don’t.

Most people get used to the scratchy feel of jeans after a few minutes. I don’t.

This could go on, but you get the idea; I don’t get used to the everyday input that most people do. Most of the time this is a pain in the butt, but this piece of knowledge can be used as a coping strategy if I use it right. If I’m in a loud room and I don’t have earplugs, I can cover my ears for intervals of a few minutes to keep myself from getting overloaded, and so I can stay in the room. It is the progressive noise that gets to me, so covering my ears helps me “reset.”

So, to all of the people who tell me that I’ll “get used to” the noise or the bright lights or the scratchy feeling of jeans, I know you mean well, but I know my body and I know I won’t. Please instead help me cope with the sensory input, and know that this is something that doesn’t come easily to me. Thank you.

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If you want to learn more about SPD, here are a few sites with great information:

http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/

http://spdsupport.org/

http://www.thesensoryspectrum.com/

The Problem With Paying Attention

I don’t have any particular issue with eye contact. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable to make eye contact with someone, and I will generally do it automatically at the beginning of a conversation or lesson at school. It is sustaining eye contact where I sometimes run into issues. I blame this mostly on other visual stimuli.  A conversation might go something like this:

*makes eye contact*

*listens to what person is saying for approximately 20 seconds*

SHINY THINGS!!!

*no longer making eye contact*

I will still likely be hearing and processing the conversation, though if the visual stimuli is extremely distracting then I might not be.

Other times though, especially at school, I will have trouble paying attention if I am looking at the speaker because I am so focused on trying to look at the speaker/sit still/pay attention. Trying to do this would look something like this in my brain:

“I’m paying attention! I’m making eye contact! I actually look like I’m taking in what the person is saying! I’m good at this! Wait, now I’m not paying attention. Pay attention! Sit still! Try to actually take in what the person is saying!”

“Wait, what on earth did the teacher just say?”

On the other hand, if I look at the table/my notebook/the shiny things, I am much more likely to take in whatever the person is saying because my mind is not occupied with telling myself to pay attention. So, one way that I can improve my focus is to not look at the person talking.

The other thing I sometimes do is lip-read. This is not particularly because of audio processing issues, but because I am then receiving constant visual stimuli that matches up with the auditory stimuli I am receiving. In other words, the stuff I’m seeing matches with the stuff I’m hearing, and I’m less likely to get distracted by other stuff I see.

So, to truly pay attention in school, I have to either not look at the teacher or look at them constantly. Both techniques have some disadvantages, though. Many people think that if a person is not making eye contact then they are not paying attention, which is clearly not true for me (and many other people) due to the reasons described above. However, the lip-reading technique makes it nearly impossible to take notes or look at visuals that the teacher is using such as a white board. I use both of these techniques in school, often interchangeably in a short period of time.

So, a message to all of my upcoming teachers: 1. Just because I’m not looking at you doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention. 2. Just because I’m looking at you doesn’t mean I’m paying attention. 3. I’m not staring at your mouth because you have lettuce stuck in your teeth. 😉

I personally think society should lose the whole idea that eye contact is so important. I wish we had some other method of communicating the fact that we are listening, but I have no idea what that would be.

Anyone have ideas? Or have your own focus techniques? Share them in the comments!