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The next generation of ADHD

LUTZ - There's a buzzword these days in the field of children's behavior-- its not exactly new, but it is getting some credence. It's a diagnosis that may provide some explanation where before there was none. It's called Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration Dysfunction.

SPD may lack the medical street cred of ADHD and ADD, but in the world of occupational therapy -- where kids have a lot of trouble with everyday things like eating and writing and getting dressed -- it's just as common.

Emily Kaplan, 7, shines just about as bright as any girl her age should. She's a regular on the Principal's Honor Roll, she's a total ham and she knows what she likes and what she's good at.

" Reading ," she said laughing. "I like playing on playgrounds and stuff."

Emily is also part of a growing number of children of diagnosed and treated for Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration Dysfunction.

"It's really been a wakeup call," said Kaplan's father, Jamie. "It makes so much sense now."

Developmentally -- she hit all the milestones and then some -- but emotionally, something was going on.

"Her shoes were the main thing that tipped us off," Kaplan said, "Her shoes had to be so tight when I tied them, it would've cut the circulation off in a normal person."

She was five and that alone, wouldn't have been an issue, but daycare said she wouldn't go outside, they couldn't get her shoes tight enough and they couldn't get her to calm down.

"One of the things was when she had a tantrum. It was an extreme tantrum and it was really over very minor things," Kaplan told FOX 13.

Emily has been working with Occupational Therapist Carolyn Andrews at Children's Choice for Therapy in Lutz off and on for two years.

"Really it's been a learning experience for all of us," said Kaplan. "Even for her -- now she's learning triggers and identifying the things that are bothering her."

SPD symptoms are different in every child. Sometimes fine motor skills, like handwriting, take a little longer to hone. Sometimes it's tags on clothing or the seams on socks or the sound of toilet flush or a lawnmower.

It's like the Goldilocks of sensory perceptions -- too much stimulation or never enough. These kids can never seem to get it just right.”

Andrews says it's fairly obvious when occupational therapy may be needed.

"Do the quirks -- are they interfering with your day to activities," Andrews said when asked what she's looking for during an evaluation.

She is quick to caution against “Parent Paranoia” -- seeing one or two curious quirks and thinking there's a problem.

It's more: Do they have friends? How's their self esteem? How's school going? Can you manage them at home?

"If everything's good -- everybody has quirks-- we all have things about us that are a little goofy but it's not impeding us functionally," explained Andrews. “When it starts to affect us functionally that's when you might need to take a look at it and you might need some therapy."

Carolyn has gotten Emily to slow down a little and think.

"Her focus has been better, her writing has been better, her reading has been better," said Kaplan.

Wardrobe changes are regular but she's learning to wear her shoes and clothing a little looser -- she even wears flip-flops. A little early help coping gave her more confidence. It changed Emily's world, so her only focus now is rocking it.

Children's Choice For Therapy
Veterans Professional Center
6924 W Linebaugh Ave • Tampa, FL 33625
(813) 962-6766