The Sensory Is Real Manifesto and Video
Play our video and hear from some of our sensory community leaders
We, the people of the Sensory Community, decree that sensory issues exist and are worthy of your attention, understanding, and acceptance.
People with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) live with neurological differences that have scientific evidence to support their existence. The evidence suggests that the brains of people with SPD and/or an ASD are wired differently than the brains of people without these two neurological conditions. Although it varies between individuals, people with SPD as well as people on the autism spectrum face many similar challenges in everyday life when confronted with sensory input.
We know that 'Sensory Is Real' because of the following:
1. Scientific research suggests that SPD and ASD exist.
Studies published by researchers at the University of California – San Francisco (UCSF) in 2013 and 2016 strongly suggest that in SPD, the posterior region of the brain is different, and children with SPD show atypical brain connectivity in regions responsible for perception and integration of sensation (Owen et al., 2013; Chang et al., 2016).
Further evidence from the team at UCSF suggests that children with autism have impaired connectivity in brain regions responsible for social-emotional processing (fusiform gyrus connections to amygdala and hippocampus), including facial emotional processing recognition. This area is responsible for the core features of autism and signifies the main differences between ASD and SPD (Chang et al., 2014).
2. As people with sensory issues, we experience the world differently.
Thanks to the differences in our neurological makeup, we are prone to deeply avoiding, craving, or ignoring the critical information that should help us make sense of the confusing sensory world around us. Some of us struggle to discriminate the basic sensory qualities of people, objects, and locations; others are challenged by maintaining their posture or completing every step of a physical action. At times, sensory input can feel so overwhelming for people with sensory issues that we even have meltdowns and shutdowns, or neurological episodes triggered by our brain’s inability to properly and easily process sensory information from the eight senses.
3. Our sensory children experience the world differently too.
Thanks to the research, sensory issues are being caught earlier in many people’s lives, and so are frequently identified in children, although we must always keep in mind that sensory issues can be present at any age. As children with SPD, ASD, or a combination of the two, we’re often unable to express the intensity of our sensory experiences – whether it’s because we can’t yet find the words to explain such a complex internal process (most common with SPD) or we’re also wired differently with respect to communication (most common with an ASD). This means that school, home, and play can feel frightening and overwhelming for our sensory children, especially without proper understanding and treatment.
4. Sensory issues are not rooted in behavior or thought, and so cannot just be wished away or ‘un-thought.’
Because sensory issues stem from the brain’s wiring and ultimately not behavior or thought patterns, people with sensory issues can’t change their brain’s natural response to sensory stimuli without the right combination of therapies. Neither SPD nor ASD are purely psychological in nature, although psychology plays an important role in the way a sensory person feels about their differences, challenges, sense-of-self, and way of being in the sensory world.
5. As parents, educators, therapists, and professionals working with people with sensory issues, we see the challenges that children, teens, and adults face in their daily life – and we assist as often as we can.
Sensory issues bleed into all areas of a person’s life because we live in a world that is perpetually requiring us to engage with our senses.
As parents, we observe our sensory children’s challenges with daily life. Each child struggles with their own unique combination of related self-care, social, and emotional issues, including eating, sleeping, bathing, dressing, self-regulating, expressing their emotions appropriately, comfortably engaging socially in the presence of intense input, and managing their self esteem. We also witness the challenges that exist beyond the home and the effort it takes to process sensory input while at school, during social engagements and in family gatherings, at the grocery store, at the park, on family vacations, and in many other unfamiliar and familiar locations.
As educators, we see our sensory students struggling to learn in spaces and in formats that aren’t always tailored to their particular needs, and we see the impact that accommodating sensory differences has on a student’s ability to learn.
As occupational therapists, ABA therapists, psychotherapists, physical therapists, and vision therapists, we witness the positive impact that a rich array of treatments can have on the sensory person’s ability to process sensory input more effectively, comfortably engage in social behavior, and cope with the secondary psychological ramifications of having a neurological disorder.
As professionals supporting the sensory community through advocacy, education, and outreach, we’ve heard thousands upon thousands of stories, engaged with thousands upon thousands of sensory people and their loved ones, and have seen patterns emerge, signifying that sensory issues exist similarly within this larger population.
As members of humankind, we must finally join together to celebrate neurodiversity and embrace sensory issues. People come in all shapes, sizes, and colors; we have unique backgrounds, interests, needs, and beliefs; and some of us, and some of the ones we love, also happen to be wired differently.
As leaders of the greater Sensory Community, we proclaim today, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, and for all of time that Sensory Is Real.
Rachel S. Schneider, M.A., MHC Kelly Jurecko
Co-founder, Sensory Is Real Co-founder, Sensory Is Real
Author, Making Sense: A Guide to Sensory Issues President, SPD Parent Zone
SPD Adult Advocate, Coming to My Senses www.spdparentzone.org
Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR/L, with the support of the entire SPD Foundation
Founder, Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation
Clinical Director, Sensory Therapies and Research (STAR) Center
Elysa Marco, MD
Associate Professor of Neurology, Pediatrics & Psychiatry
Pediatric Brain Center, Director of the Sensory, Neurodevelopment & Autism Program (SNAP)
Associate Division Head, Division of Developmental Medicine
Carol Kranowitz, M.A.
Author, The Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up
Sharon Heller, PhD
Author, Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight
and Uptight & Off Center
Jennifer Gilpin Yacio
President, Sensory Focus LLC
Angie Voss, OTR
Author, Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals
Lindsey Biel, M.A., OTR/L
Author, Sensory Processing Challenges: Effective Clinical Work with Kids & Teens
Co-author, Raising a Sensory Smart Child, foreword by Temple Grandin
"The Sensory Smart Parent"
Co-author, Raising a Sensory Smart Child
Barbara Sher, M.A., OTR
Author, Everyday Games for Sensory Processing Disorder
Jenny L. Clark, OTR/L, BCP
AOTA Board Certification in Pediatrics
Pediatric OT, continuing education instructor, inventor
Author of ‘Learn to Move, Move to Learn’ curriculum
Jennifer Jo Brout, Ed.M, Psy.D., LPC
Founder, Sensory Processing & Emotion Regulation, Duke University
Director, Misophonia International Research Network
Founder, The Sensory Spectrum
Publisher, The Jenny Evolution
Dayna Abraham, NBCT
Co-author, Sensory Processing 101
Founder, Lemon Lime Adventures and Project Sensory
Award winning author/illustrator of the Sensitive Sam children’s book series
Author and illustrator of Eating Off Plastic
Founder, SPD Life
Author, The Resilient Parent: Everyday Wisdom for Life with Your Exceptional Child
With Extra Support From:
Temple Grandin, PhD
Author, Thinking in Pictures and The Autistic Brain