Preferences and Phobias
As you've read about the way sensory integration disorder can affect your child's ability to use information from his senses, you may have realized that some of it applies to you as well. You may have extreme reactions to certain foods or fabrics. You may find it hard to concentrate in a noisy room. Certain sounds or movements may bother you in ways you can't quite pinpoint.
Indeed, most people have difficulty with sensory processing in overwhelming conditions (like those you would experience in a noisy or dark room). Even children who don't have problems significant enough to merit a diagnosis of sensory integration disorder may meet some of the criteria and benefit from games and activities designed to strengthen their sensing abilities.
Disorders of sensory integration have been divided into sensory modulation disorders and dyspraxia (motor planning) disorders. Disorders of sensory modulation can be thought of as a spectrum that runs from extreme oversensitivity to extreme undersensitivity, with a pleasant balance in the middle.
You can probably relate to feeling just a little off center, knocked out of your comfort zone by sensations you can't seem to process correctly. If you look at the range of likes and dislikes among family members, friends, and the public in general, it's easy to see that not everybody is processing sensations in exactly the same way.
Sensory problems are more common than you might think. The Diagnostic Manual for Infancy and Early Childhood estimates that 5 to 10 percent of children without other disabilities have sensory processing disorder. Among children on the autism spectrum, the rates are much higher, possibly as much as 88 percent.
When you like certain sensory experiences a little more or a little less than most people, or fear them a little more or a little less, you're spreading out along that spectrum. You probably think of these things as personal preferences, not as glitches of the nervous system, but often that's what's at the root of them.
Most adults — unlike most children — are able to make adjustments for their sensory variations. Chances are that you don't wear clothes or eat foods or seek out activities that make you feel uncomfortable. You make lifestyle choices that allow you to do the things you need to do to feel alert and safe and comfortable.