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Sensory processing disorder (SPD), originally called sensory integration dysfunction, is a neurological disorder that affects 4 million children and adults in the United States. SPD disrupts the way an individual processes and responds to sensations. A person with SPD usually has difficulty with social interactions, emotion, behavior regulation and/or motor performance.

SPD can present itself in two different forms: sensory seeking and sensory sensitive. People who fall into the sensory seeking category have sensory systems that require more sensory input before information can be perceived. For example, children with this form of SPD may crave constant stimulation in the form of touch, sound and physical activity.

Children with sensory sensitivity have lower sensory thresholds and are prone to sensory overload from stimuli such as light, sound and touch. For example, a tag on a shirt may be extremely uncomfortable and bothersome to a child with sensory sensitivity.

SPD can have a major financial impact on a family — financial challenges can run the gamut from medical treatments to various home modification items to specialized equipment and specific toys. Here’s how to hurdle over any financial barriers.

Sensory-friendly items and improvements that can make a difference

Before you can determine which changes you need to make to your home or environment, be sure you’ve consulted with a medical professional to determine the best type of treatment for your child with SPD.

Aside from treatment, depending if your child is “sensory seeking” or “sensory sensitive”, the following items and improvements can make a huge difference in the life of a person with SPD.

Sensory seeking

Specific home improvements can help a child or other individual who has the sensory seeking form of SPD, including:

  • Dedicate a sensory room in your home. Sensory rooms can be great for children who crave physical touch and stimulation. Incorporate a swinging chair, a light projector on the wall, a rocking horse, a small ball pit, a fuzzy wall or any other type of sensory stimulation your child prefers.
  • Install a playground or swing set at your home.
  • Give your child toys that are good stimulation for children with sensory seeking SPD — things that your child can chew on, bend, pull, etc.
  • Create sensory bins with sand, rice, macaroni, water, etc. that your child can manipulate without making a mess.
  • Add weighted blankets to your child’s bed for increased pressure.

Sensory sensitive

On the other hand, someone with the sensory sensitive form of SPD would need less sensory input, not more. Consider the following home improvements and equipment:

  • Dimmable lights
  • Lights that don’t flicker or make a sound
  • Calming paint colors
  • Neutral-colored furniture
  • Tinted or anti-glare windows
  • Reduced clutter in the home

Similarly, sensory sensitive clothing or accessories can help, including:

  • Sound-blocking headphones
  • Specialized sunglasses
  • Tag-free clothing
  • Compression undershirts

Small irritants in fabrics and clothing might be extremely bothersome for a person with sensory sensitive SPD. Anticipate whether tight-fitting or loose clothing will be more acceptable, and consider the type of towel and washcloth you use at bath time.

Financing sensory-friendly improvements and treatment

The cost of sensory processing disorder treatments, home modifications and equipment can quickly add up. Here are several organizations that can help reduce these costs, whether you need to make improvements to your home, buy specialized equipment or fund treatments.

The STAR Institute Treatment Center is one of the best educational options for assistance with SPD. This institute is the premier treatment, research and education center for children and adults with SPD.

Easterseals Disability Services offers early intervention, including childcare, medical rehabilitation and services for young children and their families.

First Hand Foundation is a nonprofit organization that helps children with health-related needs when insurance and other financial resources have been exhausted.

Helping From Heaven, or the Lexi Kazian Foundation, is a non-profit foundation dedicated to improving the comfort and quality of life for children with special needs. Helping From Heaven provides education, therapy and playground equipment, resources and scholarships for families and therapists in need of financial assistance and/or community support.

The Special Needs Assistance Program (SNAP) provides specialized equipment, services and education for children with special needs and their families. SNAP assistance goes to individuals between the ages of three and 21 who have a diagnosed physical or cognitive disability.

Zane’s Foundation Inc. provides financial support to families of special needs children through funds designated for respite care, therapies or other assistive equipment.

Ben’s Blankets is a nonprofit that shares at-cost and free weighted blankets with children who have disabilities.

Grants for children with special needs

There are several different types of grants available to help parents/guardians of children with special needs fund treatment, modifications, and adaptive equipment. Here are a few foundations that offer grants:

The Arya Foundation provides financial assistance and medical equipment for families raising children with special needs.

The Different Needz Foundation helps individuals with developmental disabilities get the necessary equipment and medical services.The Foundation considers future needs and provides payment for medical services or equipment directly to the provider.

First Hand Foundation offers grants and scholarships to families of children with special needs who have exhausted health insurance.

My Life Without Limits provides educational and financial resources to families of children with special needs.

The Parker Lee Project offers medical supplies and equipment for families with children with disabilities.

For additional help, you can also check out Benefit.gov’s Benefit Finder.

Additional financing options

Utilize rewards cards if you’re purchasing sensory-friendly toys and equipment or you’re spending money on materials for DIY projects. There are different rewards cards you can use for specific SPD projects or routine purchases:

  • Home renovations: Think you might need to renovate a part of your home or add a ball pit? Opt for a home improvement rewards card, which can offer cash benefits and financing options.
  • Clothing purchases: Your child may need special clothes that fit his or her sensitivity preferences. You could look into getting rewards card for any clothing store you make frequent purchases at.
  • Gas expenses: Your child may also have often have SPD medical appointments far from home. Consider getting a gas rewards card for those trips that require significant driving. Certain credit cards offer additional gas perks, too.

Bottom line

If your child has SPD, you’ll need to carefully consider his or her needs. Whether he or she needs a sensory room or a change to more neutral-colored furniture, you might need to invest in some of those changes.

It all begins with a little research into different organizations that offer assistance, grant options, and more — help is available.