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Why We Should Talk More About Sensory Processing Issues

Most of us have had the misfortune of wearing a sweater that’s just a bit too itchy. Maybe you’re guilty of mishearing a song lyric, like when tons of people heard “Starbucks” instead of “star-crossed” lovers in Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” These common occurrences are really just lapses in sensory processing. Sensory processing refers to the way your brain interprets stimuli from one (or more!) of your five senses- sight/eyes, hearing/ears, etc. Not many people have heard of this phenomenon, and sensory processing disorder, or “SPD.” Let’s unpack just a few reasons why it’s important to spread awareness for this under-researched phenomenon. 

It Can Impact Daily Life 

Before I realized that what I had was SPD, I was faced with the near-constant questions of “what’s wrong with you?” and “why are you doing that?” Everything is impacted by SPD- from holding your pencil, to having proper posture, to being able to drive. If someone had told me what was going on a lot earlier, it would’ve saved me a lot of stress, confusion, and self-invalidation.

INCREASE Awareness & Acceptance of Occupational and Vision Therapy 

It took me years to see an occupational therapist- mostly because I had no idea what an occupational therapist did, and had no idea how their work would apply to my situation. Occupational therapy refers to helping people with some kind of disability or setback perform daily (“occupational,”) tasks, such as holding a pencil. Luckily, my primary care doctor referred me to an OT, who then set me up with a vision therapist. Vision therapists are so rare that there were only two possible providers, both about 40 minutes away from my town. If I had known about what occupational and vision therapists did, I might’ve been able to identify what I needed a lot sooner. 

A “Diagnosis” Can Help People with SPD Feel Confident

Finally, an answer to the lifelong question of “what’s wrong with you?” While SPD is not recognized as a physical medical disorder, and it is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM,) it is still a disorder that can help those who would like a label for their collection of symptoms more simply than explaining their experience to others. Having a name for my experience has made school, work, and my social life so much easier. The questions of “why did you move that way?” are much more few and far between now that everyone understands that I have a disorder and need more accommodations/understanding than other people. Overall, it is extremely important to increase awareness of sensory processing issues. Everyone deserves to be the most confident version of themselves. No one else should have to wait twenty years to realize that they have a treatable disorder, much less wait that long to find the proper help. I recommended thinking about your habits and the behavior of your friends and talking openly about occupational therapy and sensory issues. Together, we can help increase awareness and encourage those who may need help to seek it in the proper places.

Meganne Evans is a Theatre B.F.A. student at Youngstown State University. She is passionate about the arts and ending the mental health stigma. When not working as a theatre teacher or volunteering with the Honors College, she can be found drinking caramel lattes, advocating for OCD awareness, or writing comedy articles. Contact her at meganne.evans.business@gmail.com or find her on Instagram @heyitsmeganne.
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