Try to sit and listen to all of the sounds around you. You might hear a lawnmower, a TV commercial, a shower running, children laughing, birds singing, dogs barking, and lots of other sounds. Now try to gather all of your other senses: sunlight filtering through trees, the smell of cut grass and baking cookies.
Now imagine someone has replaced the dog barking with an air horn. Swap the sunlight through leaves with a strobe light. Could you listen to someone speaking next to you? Could you still read this article?
This is the experience of someone suffering from SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder, also known as SID- Sensory Integration Dysfunction), and it makes for an overwhelming world. The sensory triggers differ from person to person, with some being more sensitive to sounds, especially noises like blenders and vacuums. Others are more sensitive to light or smell. Others, still, are under sensitive and seek input by running into walls and seeking loud sounds.
SPD still baffles scientists and caretakers alike, but through research and communication, our society is beginning to understand its causes, symptoms, and treatments. Temple Grandin, PhD., a world-renowned researcher and spokesperson for Autism (and fan of our product), wrote an article about her experience with SPD and the “squeeze machine” she designed. In the article, she discusses “deep touch pressure” and its capacity to calm people and animals alike. Inspired by this deep touch pressure, Grandin designed her squeeze machine to give her the firm touching she craved and help her “overcome problems of oversensitivity to touch.” Grandin found that the machine was very helpful, even saying, “Using the machine enabled me to learn to tolerate being touched by another person.”
Inspired by Grandin’s findings, family members and caretakers tried other methods of distributing deep touch pressure, a popular one being weighted blankets. In the book, The Weighted Blanket Guide, scientist Gary Wenk, PhD outlines his research of SPD and how weighted blankets can help. Wenk first describes a part of the brain called the insula, which “decides if you like a particular touch,” then, explains what his students discovered in patients with autism and SPD, saying:
“What they found is that the insula does not work as well. It does not respond as well, it is thinner when you look at the anatomy, it does not seem to be wired up properly in certain groups of people—the ones who have sensory disorders, those who have chronic pain, and in autistic children”
In short, a thinner and less responsive insula leads to over or under sensitivity, but Wenk continues to describe the effects of a weighted blanket. These blankets can help because they overstimulate the nerves and create a calming effect “with broad pressure all over the skin.” Wenk continues, saying:
“You are taking advantage of how the sensory system is wired; you are producing large sensory inputs causing the calming effect in the brain.”
SPD can make the world an overwhelming place, but by working within the ways our bodies are designed, we can provide a sense of peace, relief, and safety. All of our weighted products are specifically designed to be therapeutic for someone with SPD. Our evenly-distributed weight can provide the optimum amount of relief and make the world feel safer and more welcoming.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, where we will talk about CapeAble’s unique methods of treating SPD.