Sensory Processing Disorder Versus DSM

4 years ago


This weekend the sensory community received heartbreaking news thatSensory Processing Disorder is not considered a real diagnosis per theDSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). The American Psychiatric Association (APA)  also clumped Asperger’s with Autism, putting them both on the Autism Spectrum (ASD).

My heart sank when the APA released the announcement. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I wasn’t. However, I was hurt, offended and deeply saddened to hear something that had rocked my family to the core wasn’t considered “real” enough to be included.

Does it help to know science is always behind the times? Until 1980, the DSM listed Autism as childhood schizophrenia, which seems so outlandish it’s almost laughable. But there’s nothing funny when it’s your own family.

The sensory community has come such a long way. The simple fact parents are beginning to learn about this disorder, educating themselves and the general medical community along the way (you know who you are pediatricians!), is a victorious step in the right direction.

Sensory Processing Disorder is a stand alone condition. Period. Children can have SPD and still be social, connected and all-around regular kids. Children can have Autism as well as SPD. Kids on the Autism scale do not necessarily suffer from sensory challenges. It will take a fight until the medical community begins to understand how sensory issues affect families and children. Just because my kiddo has SPD doesn’t mean he’s not intelligent, social, loving and funny. Vman is as smart as a whip. He’ll gladly say hi and talk to you. He has no fear of going up to new kids on the playground and makes instant friends. He loves his little brother and pushes his buttons as much as he helps him out.

Vman’s now a typical kid thanks to amazing occupational therapy and hard work at home. Without understanding and embracing SPD, Vman would be struggling every day. Instead, he’s a typical boy. He loves rough housing. He looks forward to cuddling in his bed at night with stories. He’s a crazy fan of Ninjago as well the Avengers. His favorite toy right now is his light saber.

Most importantly, Vman has learned to communicate when his senses are overwhelmed. That damn winter coat is still mocking us! He tells me when a hug would be too much, when sounds are too loud and when he needs to get the energy out of his body. SPD has become an integrated part of who he is rather than some monster driving the bus.

Not including SPD does such a grave disservice to the families out there facing Sensory Processing Disorder. It’s like telling them they don’t count; their problem isn’t real. Well, I’m telling you it is real. It’s not made up. It’s not in our heads. And it’s not autism. Not in the least.

My heart weeps for families that won’t have access to care they so desperately need because of the short sightedness of the medical community. Children shouldn’t have to suffer because psychiatrists can’t understand the difference between Austism, Aspeger’s and Sensory Processing Disorser.

As parents, we are on the forefront of creating a space and understanding of SPD. Our children’s generation may not have this benefit. But as we move forward, we can damn well make sure that other generations of kids get the understanding and attention so deserve.

EVOLVE: What was your reaction when the news came out about the DSM-V excluding Sensory Processing Disorder?


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