Sensory processing disorder (SPD) impacts people of all ages, from children up to adults. While it’s not something somebody can grow out of, even with intervention at a young age, the disorder can throw up more challenges as young people reach their teenage years. Teenagers experience many physical and hormonal changes, and dealing with sensory processing disorder at the same time makes things even more challenging, so continue reading to find out more.

What is sensory processing disorder?

Sensory processing disorder is a condition that affects how the brain processes sensory information (stimuli), such as things you see, hear, smell, touch or taste. SPD’s effects can range from all of a person’s senses to just one in particular. It usually means an individual is overly sensitive to certain stimuli. In some cases, in fact, SPD can have the opposite effect. In examples like this, more stimuli is required to impact the individual.

Sensory processing disorder is more prevalent in children than in adults, so there’s a higher chance of sensory issues in teenagers. Adults can experience symptoms of SPD too, although it’s likely that they’ve experienced them since childhood and have developed better coping mechanisms that allow them to hide this from others.

Some doctors claim that sensory processing disorder is not a separate disorder, but is actually a symptom of other conditions, like autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety. However, other doctors dispute this and believe SPD is its own condition because it’s clear that some children have trouble handling regular stimuli. For now, SPD isn’t recognised as an official medical diagnosis.

Sensory issues in teenagers

Sensory processing disorder in teens can be especially difficult because they already have a whole host of other things to deal with at the same time. When children reach adolescence, their body goes through a lot of changes, which are both physically and mentally challenging. If they’re struggling with SPD at the same time, it can be a very difficult period of life.

There are also teens and adults who have never been properly diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, which can produce its own set of challenges. Individuals who have never been diagnosed have therefore not received any treatment for their condition, leaving them to deal with the world around them and feel unsupported.

Sensory issues in teenagers will impact many aspects of their life, from school and work to relationships and hobbies. The teenage years can be difficult mentally anyway, but SPD has also been known to provide secondary challenges, such as anxiety, depression and social challenges. Considering the teenage years are when most people start to socialise a lot more, having SPD can hold a person back socially and become a major challenge.

What can be done to treat sensory issues in teenagers?

There are a number of steps a parent, carer, teacher, or therapist can take to help treat sensory processing disorder in teens. You may think that it’s a challenging and difficult time for you in trying to help a teenager deal with their sensory issues, but it is much harder for them living with it.

Here are steps you can take to ensure a more comfortable experience for a teenager dealing with SPD:

Modify traditional therapy techniques to be more teen-friendly

Instead of playing with a tray of shaving cream or finger paints, encourage the teen to cook, garden, do arts and crafts or engage in other activities that challenge their tactile issues. Try to work with a therapist who is willing to alter their approach to helping a teenager to reduce any potential embarrassment or defensiveness.

Talk positively about sensory issues

Try to remain positive when discussing sensory issues with teenagers. Reassure them that sensory issues are simply a difference in brain wiring that can have its own advantages but they can also be controlled and addressed to make life easier.

Help them feel comfortable

Teenagers tend to struggle with social interaction at the best of times, but with sensory processing disorder it can become even more difficult. Helping to calm them before any social occasion can help them greatly. Talk positively about their condition, and the steps they can take to combat any stimulation issues they could face.

Providing encouraging talks and support can help them feel more comfortable in finding friends that suit their interests.

Accept their heightened emotional state

Teenage years can be emotional without SPD, so just be more aware that a teenager with the condition can have a heightened emotional state. Try to be more patient with them and more aware of their needs.

How Seashell can help

Seashell is dedicated to providing a creative, happy, and safe environment for children and young people with complex learning disabilities and additional communication needs. Our 30-acre site provides a safe environment with plenty of space to enable students to develop their outdoor skills, such as road safety skills and orienteering, as well as allowing the use of adaptable bikes and walking aids.

If you’d like to find out more about what we do at Seashell, please get in touch on 0161 610 0100 or email us at Whatever your child’s needs, we’re here to help and support you.