I am no stranger to SPD . . .
but for years, SPD was a stranger to me.
Growing up, I always felt just shy of normal. I was called "sensitive," "quirky," "needy," and "picky" by people who struggled to comprehend my particular set of rigid needs and behaviors. Although I excelled in school and in social relationships thanks to my bubbly, outgoing, intuitive, and creative nature, I feared and avoided the busy, the bright, the loud, and the chaotic. I kept to a routine and chose to spend time in familiar places with familiar people, all of which helped me to feel safe. These differences blossomed into what appeared to be an anxiety disorder during teenagehood, and I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder at age 14. It wasn't until 2010, at the age of 27, that I learned I actually had Sensory Processing Disorder, a neurological conditon that was impacting my ability to properly process and respond to sensory input.
With a Bachelor's in Psychology from Brandeis University, a Master's in Mental Health Counseling from the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology at Yeshiva University, and through my own experiences as an adult with SPD, I advocate on behalf of those like me who searched for years to find the explanation for their particular sensory challenges. I am passionate about SPD and how it affects adults. In common parlance, SPD is a childhood disorder, but this fails to recognize the innumerable adults who lacked a proper diagnosis in childhood, and now must learn to redefine themselves and their abilities in adulthood.
After my own diagnosis, I hungrily searched for material to support and validate my own experiences, but very little existed for delayed-diagnosis sensory adults. I began writing my blog, Coming to My Senses, to serve as an intimate picture of SPD diagnosis and treatment in adulthood.
Since 2010, I've become a leader of the adult SPD community. My first book, Making Sense: A Guide to Sensory Issues, was published by Sensory World in February 2016, and is based on my popular article, The Neurotypicals' Guide to Adults with Sensory Processing Disorder, featured by The Body is Not an Apology in December 2014. My second book, Sensory Like You: A Book For Kids With SPD By Adults With SPD was created in partnership with Kelly Dillon of Eating Off Plastic, and was published by Sensory World in December 2016. It's the first book written and illustrated for kids with SPD by adults with SPD, and it won the Creative Child Magazine 2017 Seal of Excellence Award in July 2017.
I've authored articles educating others about the ins-and-outs of SPD for Mind Body Green, The SPD Foundation, The Mighty, Everyday Feminism, and Sensory Focus Magazine, and am featured in Carol Stock Kranowitz's book, The Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up. My story has also been the focus of two articles in The Washington Post and Mosaic science. I spoke about the importance of making arts and culture sensory-friendly at Chicago's first Sensory-Friendly Summit in April 2016 and about living with SPD at the STAR Institute of SPD's 19th International 3S Symposium in Seattle in November 2016.
Rachel's Articles and Projects:
Also Featured in:
The Washington Post, For years doctors wrongly diagnosed these strange episodes as panic attacks, by Katherine Arcement
Mosaic science, Why are so many of us over-sensitive? by Emma Young