People with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) can have a hard time processing sensory information if their sense of sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell is overwhelmed, according to the STAR Institute. When overwhelmed, people with SPD can succumb to sensory overload, causing them to feel a great amount of stress, anxiousness, and physical pain. In order to make the Ithaca community more accessible for people with SPD, we need to consider sensory needs when designing businesses and public facilities.
A person with SPD may have different needs depending on whether or not their senses are overly-sensitive or under-sensitive. For example, if a person has underdeveloped ears, they may not hear sounds from one ear. If a person has an oversensitive sense of sight, they might have a sensitivity to bright lights. As the disorder often occurs in individuals with autism, those with SPD also suffer from other symptoms related to autism, including migraines.
According to developmental psychologist Sharon Heller, Ph.D., in her book, Uptight and Off Center: How Sensory Processing Disorder Throws Adults Off Balance & How to Create Stability, “Other sufferers show normal development but later trauma to the nervous system creates sensory processing problems. Such trauma includes head or brain trauma, physical, sexual or psychological abuse, chemical abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder when people become constantly hyper-alert and sensory defensive.”