When we first started down this rabbit-hole, we were told that our child had sensory integration issues. For anyone who thinks this is a bogus diagnosis, the occupational therapist showed him a metal key and a wooden ball and clarified that he knew what the two objects were. She then made him look away and put one item into his hand and closed it around the item. She then asked if he was holding the key or the ball.
He had no idea. His sense of touch was that far off.
So this is not an issue of maturity. Babies can feel differences in objects. Something is wrong.
Unfortunately, I can find NO research done on the causes of SPD. PubMed covers the value of occupational therapy, but there is not so much as a case study on anyone who has recovered or any tested hypothesis of causes. If anyone finds one, let me know.
But I do know of one person who recovered. In the 1970s they did not have this diagnosis. Instead I was called clumsy, irritable, unaware of her surroundings and “does not seem to feel pain”. I was the sort of child who could fix the torn hem in a skirt with staples and sit on them all day without noticing. When my appendix burst, I calmly complained of “a really bad stomachache” and filled out my own admitting forms at the hospital (I was 6). I got a black eye from walking into a doorknob, and until a few years ago I was on a first name relationship with the guy at the body shop. I never hit a moving car, only large, easy to see, stationary objects. Like trees. I think I hit three different trees.
Since going gluten-free and dairy-free I have hit nothing with my car. I have not even tapped another car while parallel parking in downtown Chicago (I drive a minivan). Food tastes very different. I no longer need so much seasoning in things. It is actually kind of creepy.
How did this happen?
My hypothesis, which I have neither the tools nor the diplomas to test, is that Sensory Processing Disorder is actually in many cases, simple malnutrition. Period. If you have celiac disease you can eat the healthiest diet ever. Do a shot of wheatgrass once a month and you will still be malnourished. Malnutrition is not necessarily due to a poor diet. It can be due to pathology. Celiac is a well documented pathology which results in malnutrition. My guess is that there are others that we just don’t yet know or understand.
And while there is no research on sensory processing disorder and diet, there is PLENTY of evidence that sensory processing type issues are diet related. A truly horrifying amount of data.
Go to PubMed. Most of the links in this document will take you there. PubMed is from the NIH. Type in the words “nervous system disorders and nutrition”.
Yes, you read that correctly. Over 11,000 results.
Due to the crushing volume of research, I was unable to read all of the results. But among those with catchy titles were these.
In 1948, British POWs who had eaten too many carbs and not enough veggies (and were therefore deficient in B-vitamins) returned with a variety of brain disorders. Read the description of their issues with visual motor processing and poor muscle tone and the dietary cure (more veggies, fewer grains) here. Also note that the ingestion of any starches (including potatoes) slowed their recovery.
Or this one from an Italian review called “Neurological manifestations of gastrointestinal disorders, with particular reference to the differential diagnosis of multiple sclerosis”. I like how they link particular deficiencies with disease. I am so grateful to the Italian medical system. I cannot even tell you how much good stuff on this is coming out of Italy. Also check out the Tedx talk on this subject under the MS heading on the main menu of the site.
Here is a recent one on the role of Vitamin K on psychomotor development. Vitamin K comes from leafy greens.
Here is one on B12 deficiencies in the elderly and the neuropsychiatric changes that ensue. Note that B12 commonly comes from meat so deficiencies have historically been rare in people with good digestion. Seniors tend to have digestive issues. So do people with autism. Guess who has B12 deficiencies?
Or this one on the neurological and psychiatric aspects of digestive diseases which is unfortunately in Hungarian (the abstract is English, but the full meta-analysis is in Hungarian) so I can’t check their facts, but we can read the abstract which I personally found horrifying in how simply it explains the way that sensory information, impeded by the gut, is processed incorrectly in the brain.
So we do not have the research specifically on SPD. What we do have, however, is a stupefying amount of evidence going back to the 1940s that malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, which can have many causes, can cause sensorimotor challenges. Which is why, when it was my kid, I demanded to see a nutritionist who worked with children.
Gluten free food is indeed expensive. But a naturally GF diet of fruits, veggies, eggs (if you can handle them), nuts (if you can handle them) and meat is a bargain compared to occupational therapy.