If you have an overactive, or as they say, “spirited” child, he may appear to be strong-willed, super active, and yes, at times difficult. He may be more persistent, energetic, and intense than average. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and can mean that he is determined and enthusiastic.
Still, his behavior and temperament can be frustrating. This behavior, however, could be a sign of a sensory processing disorder, also referred to as sensory integration dysfunction, in which he has overactive or underactive sensory systems.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
This condition is a neurological disorder where your child’s brain can’t process information accurately that his senses (touch, vision, hearing, taste and movement) transmit. If your child has this disorder, the problems you may notice in your child’s behavior and normal development may be caused by one or more overactive senses.
ADHD and Autism and Sensory Processing Difficulties
An overactive child may also be struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This condition is characterized by a group of behavioral symptoms, such as impulsiveness, inattentiveness, and hyperactivity. Children with autism may also have sensory processing disorder. In any event, your child may be overly sensitive to certain environmental sensory stimuli, which is causing him to be overactive and over react to their surroundings.
If you’re questioning the level of activity in your child, you can consult with a pediatric occupational therapist who works with your child and provides you with strategies that you can do at home to help him. The therapist provides therapy and targeted activities to help your child participate in everyday life activities better.
For instance, with SPD, your child will learn how to appropriately respond to a sense like “touch” if he is prone to withdrawing when touched. The therapist helps your child to get used to the touch sense by applying deep touch pressure to his skin.
With ADHD, the therapist may work at improving your child’s concentration with remedial strategies or help him re-establish habits and routines with adaptive strategies. The pediatric occupational therapist teaches your child the strategies and skills he needs so he can better cope with difficulties related to overactivity.
There is no doubt that a spirited child is trying and can become uncontrollable at times. However, you need to be patient and provide all the support and love you can while both you and the therapist work with developing skills to cope with your child’s overactive tendencies.