A sensitive adult: adults all have preferences and sensitivities – some love activity, the hustle and bustle of people and loud music. Others love a quiet hour with a book and feel uncomfortable in noisy places with people moving around. Some cope well in an open plan office, others prefer the quiet behind a closed door.
Adults can have sensitivities to specific sensations
Some adults are more sensitive to specific sensations than others, so much so that the sensitivity interferes with their daily life. I have met adults that cannot handle the sounds in a quiet exam room – the sound of pens on paper, of people breathing and of the movement of others in the room, are too much for them and interfere with concentration and focused attention. I know adults with extreme sensitivity to others chewing food, e.g. others eating popcorn in a movie. Other adults are extremely sensitive to smells and refuse to spend time in some public places because of the smells. They might be sensitive to textures in clothes and would avoid these textures when buying clothes, they often take labels and tags off before wearing a new garment.
Adults have choices regarding activities
Many adults with SPD cope well in everyday life, however, being an adult, they have choices – they can choose their work environment, the activities they attend and the tasks they are involved in. Children do not have these choices, therefor symptoms of SPD are readily identified in childhood. The effect of SPD and the struggles of an adult with SPD are the same than in childhood.
Parents often relate to SPD in the child
When I explain SPD to parents after assessing a child, often one of the parents will indicate that they experience the same sensitivities as the child. They are often relieved to hear why they have different reactions than others and to learn that it can be addressed with strategies and some therapy interventions to help them.
Some ‘psychological’ symptoms might be SPD
Many adults with SPD present with other symptoms such as anxiety. SPD is the ability to filter the sensations in the environment. If the filtering is inadequate, there are too many sensations to tend to, the person has a low threshold for some or all sensations, and presents with anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed, and avoidance of some activities. If the filtering is too much, the person has a high threshold for sensations and might be a daydreamer, be lethargic with low energy levels and present with inadequate concentration.
Adults benefit from strategies
Adults can benefit hugely from intervention and strategies to assist them in everyday life. These will reduce anxiety and often self-esteem, also relationships with family members. Strategies may involve environmental modifications, and might be simple but beneficial, e.g. choose a calming screen saver, use noise cancelling head phones, have regular movement breaks that involves targeted exercises. The strategies depend on the adult’s specific sensory profile.
What can adults with SPD do?
Find an occupational therapist with extensive experience in sensory integration techniques and in SPD. The therapist will ask you to complete a questionnaire to identify your sensory profile. A sensory profile enables a therapist to assist you with specific strategies to address SPD. The strategies are usually easy to implement.
A family sensory profile
A sensory profile of each member of the family is valuable to identify differences among family members. It usually gives family members better insight in one another and makes it easier to understand the preferences, dislikes and behaviour of fellow family members. Differences and irritations among family members are dissolved and disappear once they understand the reason for specific behaviours in other members.
CoordiKids can help with these issues through online consultations. Book your first free 15-minute appointment at www.coordiconsult.com .