This week on the All Things Sensory podcast, we bring you our very own version ofMyth Busters, SPD edition! Listen in as we discuss and debunk eight common myths about Sensory Processing Disorder.Tuning in, you’ll find out what you can say to someone who might not believe that SPD even exists, or if someone criticizes your parenting style because your child is ‘overreacting’.
We discuss everything from whether autism and ADHD are linked to SPD and the importance of teaching kids coping mechanisms, to toe-walking and how you can help your child if you, too, have sensory processing challenges. Join us today as we bust some sensory myths!
“Some individuals with sensory processing challenges are more sensitive to certain sensory inputs. But you can have someone who is sensitive to auditory input and yet they seek out tactile input. You can be on both sides.” — Jessica[0:04:43]
“There is a stigma out there about sensitive kiddos and they just have unique sensory systems.” — Rachel[0:05:03]
“Kids with sensory processing challenges don’t lack self-control. They maybe lack the necessary tools to improve their self-control and it’s our job to teach them.”— Jessica[0:13:39]
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Hey there. I’m Rachel, and I’m Jessica, and this is All Things Sensory by Harkla. Together, we are on a mission to help children and families, therapists and educators live happy, healthy lives.
[0:00:12.6] RH: We dive into all things sensory especially the occupational therapy, parenting, self-care and so much more. In each episode we share, raw, honest, fun ideas and strategies for everyone to implement into daily life.
[0:00:25.8] JH: Thank you so much for joining us.
[0:00:31.1] RH: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of All Things Sensory by Harkla. You’re listening to Rachel and Jessica.
[0:00:39.1] JH: This is Episode 180. We are doing something a little bit different today because instead of having like an outline of what we want to say and all the points that we want to hit. We are doing more of an on-the-spot episode where we have our list of things to talk about, but we don’t actually know what we are going to talk— like we don’t know we’re going to say about that yet.
[0:01:01.2] RH: No, so the episode is all about Myths of Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD. We had these random myths that we found a while ago put them into this Google doc and forgot about them. Pulled it up today and have not looked at them yet, but we are going to rattle these off and then have a casual conversation about each of these different myths and see what we think about them.
[0:01:27.5] JH: These are all just our opinions based on our experience, our research. So, if you don’t agree with us, that’s okay. You don’t have to agree with us, but just have an open mind and I guess enjoy the conversation.
[0:01:42.9] RH: If you want to chime in on this topic with us, we would love to hear your thoughts. Send us a DM after you listen, screenshot, tag us and then send us your thoughts and say, "Whoa I do not know about this or yeah, I totally agree with this".
[0:01:58.2] JH: The first one is: There is no such thing and sensory processing issues.
[0:02:04.9] RH: Wow.
[0:02:05.6] JH: Curious if anyone has ever had that said to them before.
[0:02:09.3] RH: Wow, who would say that?
[0:02:11.3] JH: Maybe a pediatrician?
[0:02:12.8] RH: I hope not.
[0:02:13.0] JH: Maybe like someone from an older generation.
[0:02:16.0] RH: Yeah, like a grandma or grandpa. As the parent you are trying to explain to them why your child is doing something quirky. And it’s like, they got these sensory processing issues. Grandma and grandpa are like, "They didn’t have that when I was a kid."
[ 0:02:31.1] JH: Yeah, there you go. So then how do you explain it to them? You say, look we all have a sensory system, we all have sensory needs and maybe just go into this deep dive explanation of sensory, maybe you send them to our podcast.
[0:02:49.8] RH: I am curious if anyone has had this happen to them and how you explain it to them. Because I feel like, if it’s a family member it can really cause a lot of harshness in the family.
[0:03:03.4] JH: Yeah, a lot of difficulties.
[0:03:06.7] RH: There is a word that I am thinking of it is like head-butting. Can you guys see what my hands are doing.
[0:03:11.3] JH: Yeah, butting heads for sure.
[0:03:11.9] RH: Yeah.
[0:03:13.8] JH: What arguments. I was just thinking even in just everyday life of talking to people and meeting people and telling them what we do and having to explain sensory processing challenges and why we do what we do, we need like a two-minute elevator pitch.
[0:03:29.3] RH: Yeah, no kidding. I always like to say that everyone has a sensory system, so everyone can have challenges with their sensory system. It’s your nervous system. We all have it. We all have the potential of something going awry. And not even necessarily awry, it is like we all just have our quirks. You know? I have so many.
[0:03:50.0] JH: We all do, and they change throughout our life. Okay, number two.
[0:03:57.3] RH: That is a myth. In the showMyth Busters, would be say this myth is busted?
[0:04:04.7] JH: Yeah, we just busted that myth.
[0:04:06.2] RH: Right? Is that the proper terminology?
[0:04:07.8] JH: I don’t know; I haven’t watched that show in a really long time.
[0:04:10.9] RH: I don’t know if the myth is busted, that means that it’s true or it’s false.
[0:04:15.2] JH: This myth is a myth. It’s not true.
[0:04:17.0] RH: Okay, this myth is false.
[0:04:18.6] JH: We are going to say that the myth has been busted. We busted that myth to show you that it’s not true.
[0:04:21.5] RH: Okay.
[0:04:23.7] JH: Okay, number two.
[0:04:25.4] JH: Kids with Sensory Processing issues are sensitive to everything.
[0:04:30.8] RH: That is not even true a little bit. Sensory seekers? They are like go, go, go, go, I want every type of input I can get.
[0:04:39.6] JH: Yeah.
[0:04:40.1] RH: They’re not sensitive at all.
[0:04:41.3] JH: No, I think that some children, some individuals with sensory processing challenges are more sensitive to certain sensory inputs. But you can have someone who is sensitive to auditory input and yet they seek out tactile input. You know you can be on both sides.
[0:04:59.8] RH: Wow, that is funny. I feel like there is kind of a stigma out there about like sensitive kiddos and they just have unique sensory systems.
[0:05:10.8] JH: Going along with that, kids who are— not all kids who are sensitive to things have sensory processing disorder.
[0:05:17.5] RH: Exactly.
[0:05:18.3] JH: So, it goes both ways.
[0:05:19.3] RH: They could have some anxiety, some retained primitive reflexes. There could be a lot of stuff going on. I just don’t like it when people, like, put a label on these kids just put them in a box and say, "You have this, so you are going to act this way” and that’s it. There’s no coming back from that, there’s no changing it.
[0:05:40.1] JH: Yeah, do not do that.
[0:05:42.1] RH: Okay, myth busted. Okay, number three. Kids with sensory processing issues are overreacting.
[0:05:50.0] JH: Okay so these are— this is where you would see a child have a big reaction to something and you say, "Oh no, they are just overreacting they need to just learn how to deal with better".
[0:06:02.3] RH: Or the parents just need to discipline them better.
[0:06:06.7] JH: That one is triggering, you guys.
[0:06:08.4] RH: That is so frustrating. I hate it when people blame the parents for the way that the kiddos sensory needs are.
[0:06:17.8] JH: So that myth has already been busted right? That was a myth a long time ago with autism and that it was caused by parenting issues. So that means is already been busted but I do think that stigma is still around for sure.
[0:06:30.7] RH: Yeah, you just need to discipline your child more, so they aren’t so naughty or the bad kids, right? Oh my gosh.
[0:06:36.7] JH: These kids who overreact just need better discipline, they just need to learn how to deal with it better, they need to calm down. When, in reality, they are overreacting or having a big reaction because their sensory system is overloaded.
[0:06:49.9] RH: They just need a sensory break.
[0:06:51.2] JH: Yup, the need a sensory break, they need a sensory diet.
[0:06:54.4] RH: They need empathy too. Have you guys listened to our episode on empathy? Yeah, okay, great.
[0:07:00.2] JH: If not, that’s okay you can do after this one. Okay so did we bust that myth?
[0:07:04.5] RH: Yeah, they are definitely not overreacting. I mean, they could, you know, that definitely could be a factor, but I feel like there is always an underlying reason as to why they are overreacting.
[0:07:15.1] JH: Absolutely.
[0:07:16.4] RH: I hate that word, “overreacting”. They are having a big reaction.
[0:07:20.2] JH: Right, right, right. Let us change the verbiage. Change how you say it.
[0:07:24.3] RH: So, these myths are terrible.
[0:07:27.4] JH: As we laugh about it.
[0:07:30.2] RH: We have to have a sense of humor when we talk about this stuff.
[0:07:32.8] JH: Okay what are we on?
[0:07:33.9] RH:Number four. Sensory processing issues only impact five senses.
[0:07:41.5] JH: Now you all know that that’s not true because we actually have eight senses not just five.
[0:07:48.8] RH: I feel like in elementary school when they taught us about our sense, they taught us such a disservice.
[0:07:54.6] JH: 100 percent.
[0:07:55.3] RH: Maybe we need to go into the curriculum in elementary school and change it and say let’s teach them about the eight senses that all these kids have, and those three hidden senses make such a huge impact on their ability to get through the day. They need to know about that.
[0:08:11.4] JH: They need to know about vestibular input, they need to know about proprioceptive input, heavy work that’s calming, and they need to know about Interoception so they can understand how their body feels and how their body works and processes and digests and all the things.
[0:08:26.4] RH: I feel if like these kiddos are set up with success for the tools to help them regulate their bodies based on their sensory needs, and they understand it, they will be so much more inclined to try and to learn about it and to be open to trying these different activities and having a toolbox.
[0:08:47.3] JH: Yeah absolutely. Even our kids who maybe don’t have sensory processing challenges who are more neurotypical, even those kids need to learn about these three hidden senses and need to learn about how activities impact their body and their feelings and how to use those tools just like a child who does have SPD.
[0:09:08.6] RH: Okay so this myth is busted. Yes, we do have podcast episodes on the proprioceptive system, the vestibular system and interoceptive system. So, make sure that you go back and check those out if you were like, “I have no idea what those words even mean”, we’ll explain it to you.
[0:09:25.3] JH: Okay number five: kids with sensory processing issues just need to toughen up.
[0:09:30.7] RH: Just toughen up.
[0:09:32.4] JH: This kind does go along with number two, about all these kids being sensitive to everything. If they are sensitive, they just need to toughen up.
[0:09:39.1] RH: This is a little bit judgmental of me to say but I feel like it’s kind of a dad thing to say to a kid.
[0:09:45.9] JH: Especially to boys.
[0:09:46.9] RH: Yes, like Daniel had said that to a Trip before. And I am like, “I’m sure there are other things that we could say.”
[0:09:51.4] JH: I for sure. I’m sure that I have said something similar to Logan before. Because that is the kind of stereotype for boys and men, and I think that’s changing a lot in today’s world. But just overall why can't kids or boys or any kids be sensitive and have feelings and cry like, that’s totally fine we don’t need to toughen up, we need to just find tools to use to help us feel better.
[0:10:21.3] RH: Yeah wow, that’s crazy.
[0:10:26.0] JH: We could keep going on now.
[0:10:27.0] RH: I know, I have a lot of thoughts on that.
[ 0:10:30.6] JH: Maybe a different episode.
[0:10:31.6] RH: Yeah, we probably could do a whole episode on that.
[0:10:34.8] JH: For sure. Okay did we bust that one?
[0:10:37.6] RH: Yeah.
[0:10:37.8] JH: I think so.
[0:10:39.1] RH: Yeah.
[0:10:40.4] RH & JH: Okay we just want to take a minute to talk about our company Harkla. Our mission at Harkla is to help those with special needs live happy and healthy lives. Not only do we work to accomplish this through the podcast, but we also have therapy products, digital courses and a ton of free resources on YouTube and our website to try to bring holistic care to you and your family. Listeners of the All Things Sensory podcast get ten percent off your first purchase at Harkla with the discount code ‘SENSORY’.
We would highly recommend checking out some of our bestsellers like the Compression Sensory Swing, the weighted blankets and of course our course on sensory diets and primitive reflexes. The cool thing is that one percent of each sale gets donated to the University of Washington autism center to support autism research and fund scholarships for families in need to receive in-clinic therapy for their children. Learn more about Harkla and all we have to offer at harkla.co and use the code ‘SENSORY’ to get 10 percent off your first purchase. Don’t forget that all Harkla orders come with a lifetime guarantee and free shipping. Let’s get back to the show.
[0:11:59.6] RH: Number six: kids with sensory processing issues lack self-control.
[0:12:04.5] JH: Okay.
[0:12:06.1] RH: Interesting.
[0:12:08.2] JH: So, is it a lack of self-control or is it just not having learned the tools to improve self-control, because we all have the capacity to have self-control, right? But we just have to learn how to do it.
[0:12:24.2] RH:Yeah, and unfortunately that tool does not necessarily always come naturally. We have to teach the kids to control their body and we have to model what self-control looks like. So, if a parent themselves has their own sensory processing challenges, emotional regulation issues, they blow up. They have a short fuse. The kiddo’s probably going to learn those same coping strategies as well and we want to make sure that we are teaching them the right tools to have self-control.
[0:12:54] JH: And then I think the other side of that is that nobody is perfect, and we’re all going to lose our cool at some point. We’re all going to have to challenges with self-control and it’s just a matter of how we react to that and how we learn from it to do better next time.
[0:13:14.6] RH: And I think it is okay to lose your cool and to get frustrated in front of your kiddo. They can see you have feelings, and you can process your feelings and then, if you make a mistake and you mess up, talk about that and say, "Man, I really messed up. I should have realized that I was in the red zone and not have yelled at you. I am sorry. I hope you can forgive me."
[0:13:37.7] JH: Yeah, talk to them about it for sure. I just think kids with sensory processing challenges, SPD, they don’t lack self-control. They maybe lack the necessary tools to improve their self-control and it’s our job to teach them.
[0:13:52.8] RH: And they could lack self-awareness. I think that is part of it and that lack of self-awareness definitely contributes to poor self-control, but I think there’s an underlying reason. I don’t think that the sensory processing issues are the reason why. I think that it’s a whole bundle of things.
[0:14:13.6] JH: It all goes hand in hand we can’t put them in a box. That, you already said. You we cannot put them in a box and say, "Oh, they just lack self-control because their SPD." No, let us figure out a way to help them. That one’s busted.
[0:14:26.9] RH: Yup, for sure. Okay number seven, sensory processing issues are a form of autism spectrum disorder.
[0:14:36.9] JH: That’s interesting.
[0:14:38.6] RH: Here’s my thought. I believe that kiddos, adults, people, whoever it is who has autism, they definitely have a higher chance of having sensory processing challenges. They go hand in hand, but I would not at all say that sensory processing issues are a form of autism. I think they are completely different.
[0:15:00.6] JH: Yeah, I think that you can’t say that every person who has sensory processing disorder also has autism.
[0:15:07.8] RH: Or every person with autism has sensory processing disorder.
[0:15:12.1] JH: They definitely can go hand in hand, but it’s not if they have one you always have the other.
[0:15:17.4] RH: It’s like what came first? The chicken or the egg?
[0:15:19.1] JH: Oh, I hate that question.
[0:15:21.1] RH: Right but I mean, it’s a valid question. Is a kiddo born with autism and they develop the sensory challenges because of that, or are they born with sensory processing challenges and then may develop autism because of that?
[0:15:32.9] JH: Or should we just continue to keep them separate and say if somebody has the diagnosis of autism, they may have sensory processing challenges.
[0:15:41.7] RH: They may have a diagnosis of sensory processing challenges as well.
[0:15:45.5] JH: Right but they do not have to and vice versa. Busted. Okay one more. This is number eight. Sensory processing issues is just another name for ADHD.
I don’t like that one either. I am, as of this recording, currently almost finished with an ADHD continuing ed course that I’ve been taking. It’s like 20 hours long. I’ve just been muddling through it. It’s really good, but it’s been really eye opening and really great. I’ve got a lot of strategies and will probably do an episode after I finish, but I definitely do not agree with this one. ADHD is its own beast.
[0:16:29.1] RH: Yeah. I do think ADHD can be misdiagnosed as sensory processing challenges or sensory processing disorder in certain cases, if you’re not looking at all of the pieces.
[0:16:43.9] JH: And I think a child with ADHD definitely struggles with sensory processing just because of the way their brain and their body works. But I think it’s just like number seven, you can’t categorize them together all the time.
[0:17:01.4] RH: No, I think that when we start lumping these diagnoses together, we just get in a mess, and they just need to be kept separate and we need to address each of these different diagnoses uniquely and how they are supposed to be addressed.
[0:17:16.6] JH: Well, we need to look at the child as a whole and not just look at their symptoms but look at the underlying cause. Right? We have an episode on that entire topic of looking at the whole child instead of just the symptoms and putting a band aid, to putting a diagnosis on the symptoms and saying, "Oh well, that’s that."
[0:17:36.5] RH: And that’s how you’re going to be for the rest your life.
[0:17:38.5] JH: Yeah, put them in a box.
[0:17:39.6] RH: Just using a diagnosis as an excuse is frustrating. It’s frustrating when I hear people use that verbiage. No, you have a diagnosis. Okay, now we know how we can help you and what we can do to make a difference and help you thrive so let’s put the work in and make it happen. Okay, busted.
[0:18:00.0] JH: Okay, I am super curious. I am really interested to hear your feedback on this episode and what we talked about, whether you agree or disagree. Whether you have additional thoughts on these different myths. We will link the website that we got these myths from in the show notes so you can go check it out and see where we got these from.
[0:18:21.5] RH: I also think it is important to recognize that we are all adults, and we can have conversations about disagreeing and I don’t think that is a bad thing to disagree. I think we are all entitled to our own opinions, at our own beliefs and thoughts and having honest, open, friendly conversations about disagreeing is healthy.
[0:18:41.8] JH: Yeah. If we can have this conversation without getting mad at each other and saying, "Nope, you are wrong. I am not going to talk about it because you are wrong, I am right." If we can have open conversations well that is an interesting point of view let me think about that. Maybe I will keep my point of view or maybe I will change my point of view based on what you said.
[0:19:01.2] RH: Maybe the whole world should just listen to this episode and realize that.
[0:19:08.8] JH: Share this with everybody.
[0:19:08.7] RH: Okay, before we let you all you go, we do have two questions for this week's episode we would like to answer.
[0:19:15.4] JH: Okay, one of these questions came from a DM and the other one came was a question posted on one of our posts in Instagram. The first question, this was a very long question, so we shortened it down and the gist of it was, "How do I help my child when I, the parent, have my own sensory challenges?"
[0:19:37.9] RH: It is almost like the oxygen mask thought. You have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can put your child's oxygen mask on because if you die you can’t take care of your child, right? That was very intense but that is true. If you can’t take care of yourself, then how can you take care of your child? And I truly believe that self-care, however you see it, is very important and once you take care of yourself and get help for your own sensory needs, then you can really start to help your child thrive even more.
[0:20:16.9] JH: Yeah, and then when this question came up, my first thought was our friend Danielle who’s an occupational therapist. We interviewed her. She has a child. She herself says she has her own sensory challenges and so my first thought was, "Send her to Danielle because Danielle has amazing resources." She has an Instagram it is @mornings.with.an.ot.mom. We’ll link that in the show notes, but she is a really great resource for a parent who’s struggling with their own sensory challenges and who is also trying to help their child with sensory processing challenges, that’s a good one to try.
[0:20:58.2] RH: Yes definitely. Okay next question: how much does you think toe-walking originates from sensory needs?
[0:21:05.9] JH: We have an episode on toe-walking. I think it is our W-sitting and toe-walking episode. That would be a good one to check out.
[0:21:14.0] RH: I think it depends on the kiddo. I think a couple of things that could be connected if it’s a visual challenge, a visual processing challenge and the kiddo needs their vision to be brought back down, if they’re like up and all over the place putting a hat on them bringing their visual gaze down. That could be a potential tool for toe-walking so in that case it would be possibly sensory related.
[0:21:42.1] JH: I also think oftentimes kiddos who are hypersensitive to tactile input can exhibit toe-walking because they are trying to get away from input from their body or maybe they are seeking proprioceptive input so when you go up on your toes you are activating a lot of muscles. You are putting more pressure on some different joints and so you are getting some proprioceptive feedback there as well.
[0:22:05.3] RH: And then another thought could be if the child has GI issues, gut issues, digestive issues, constipation. They’re up on their toes holding everything, they’re holding, their bowel movements are really tight. That could be a potential cause as well.
[0:22:23.8] JH: I think every child is different.
[0:22:27.8] RH: Some kids just toe-walk because they toe-walk. It is just idiopathic toe-walking. There is no rhyme or reason.
[0:22:33.5] JH: Sure. Absolutely. Really, you have to look at the child. You have to see what the underlying causes are. What are that specific child's sensory needs? And go from there.
[0:22:44.3] RH: And I think it needs to be addressed as early as possible.
[0:22:47.6] JH: Yes, because there can be issues that arise from chronic toe-walking.
[0:22:52.8] RH: Yeah, and if you do not address early and they continue to toe-walk and toe-walk, you are going to have a ten-year-old who walks their toes, and they literally cannot go down on their heels.
[0:23:01.6] JH: And they might have to have surgery. We’ve seen that before.
[0:23:04.4] RH: Yeah, toe-walking. It’s tough one.
[0:23:08.5] JH: Okay, that’s it for today. That’s all we’ve got for you.
[0:23:11.7] RH: That’s it. Kind of a different episode. Let us know your thoughts. Leave a review on iTunes, just pop in there and leave us a note, leave us some stars if you feel inclined. We would appreciate that.
[0:23:23.2] JH: Share with your friends and your family and we’ll talk to you next week.
[0:23:27.5] RH: Okay, bye!
[0:23:29.5] RH: Thank you so much for listening to All Things Sensory by Harkla. If you want more information on anything we mentioned in the show, head over to harkla.co/podcast to get all of the show notes.
[0:23:39.7] JH: We always have the show notes and links plus full transcripts to make following
along as easy as possible for everyone. If you have follow-up questions the best place to ask those is in the comments on the show notes or message us on our Instagram account which is @harkla_family. If you just search Harkla, you will find us.
[0:24:00.7] RH: Like we mentioned, our podcast listeners get 10 percent off their first order at Harkla. Whether it is for one of our digital courses, one of our sensory swings. The discount code SENSORY will save you 10 percent. That code is S-E-N-S-O-R-Y. Head over to harkla.co/sensory to use that code right now, so you don’t forget.
[0:24:23.3] JH: We are so excited to work together to help competent kids all over the world and work towards a happier healthier life.
[0:24:29.8] RH: All right. We’ll talk to you guys next week.
Just a friendly reminder this is general information related to occupation therapy, pediatrics, and sensory integration. We do not know you or your child therefore we do not know any specific needs. Therefore, you should always refer back to your pediatrician and occupational therapist for more information.
BORING, BUT NECESSARY LEGAL DISCLAIMERS
While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.
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In response to your first question, “has anyone ever said ‘sensory issues don’t exist’ to you?” Fortunately, no, but my son with ASD can present as neurotypical, so I’ve had many other parents tell me that they are sure he doesn’t have autism. I used to get sensitive about that comment but now I reply, “well, a pediatrician, a psychologist, and an occupational therapist think he does, so I’m going with that.”
We need to get this out there for people to stop making unhelpful comments like this. If someone is telling you about their neurodiverse child that is a hard, vulnerable thing to open up about and saying that the experts they have entrusted their family with are wrong is simply not helpful. A parent in that situation has probably done more research and investigation than you as well, so unless you are a pediatrician, OT, or child psychologist, it is best to simply listen with compassion.
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March 24, 2022
How do you explain this to a teacher who seems set in her ways? My daughter is struggling so hard with a teacher right now who thinks she is just lazy and doesn’t want to do work. She has a 504 to get reminders for assignments and extra time, but she is still constantly reprimanded in front of the class for not completing assignments or handing in things late. If I don’t know about the work, I can’t help at home, and my kid just thinks she is stupid and unworthy and it’s breaking my heart. This teacher is so old school, literally, and even after previous conferences, doesn’t seem to get it. How can I explain that my kid can’t help it, and maybe a little empathy might go a long way? But you know, in a nice way that won’t make me worry about retaliation at school when I am not there?