10 Things to Never Say to a Person with Sensory Processing Disorder

Unfortunately a person with Sensory Processing Disorder doesn’t just have to endure the frustrations and struggles that come with the way their brain is wired, but they also have to withstand many misinformed comments and phrases being thrown their way day to day. In fact, the truth is, they often struggle to find friends and have onlookers understand what they are going through. As a parent of a child with sensory processing disorder, I am often the recipient of the hurtful comments, however, I am not the only one. My son, and many others like him, often have to endure these things no one should ever say to a person with Sensory Processing Disorder.

Things to never say to a child with SPD

I strongly believe the the majority of comments that people make are out of ignorance. They either have never heard of sensory processing disorder, or have never had to love someone who struggles with every day tasks. I have to believe they aren’t made out of meanness or intent to hurt. In fact, before I knew my son had sensory processing disorder and anxiety, I probably said a few of these phrases to him out of frustration. No, wait… I still say some of these out of frustration, and then I remember that I am not helping situations at all.

Sensory Processing Disorder is a frustrating disorder because it is silent. What this means is that often times, you would never know anything is “wrong” or different about the person who is struggling. In fact, many people that are classified as “gifted” are also struggling with sensory issues daily, yet they may never have a disorder that impedes on their daily lives. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful what we say to them.

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Person with Sensory Processing Disorder

It’s not that hard to {insert common activity}.

Yes. Yes, it is that hard. They are not doing refusing to do what ever it is you are waiting on them to do, just to annoy you. It might look like it, but I assure you… that is not their intentions.

Calm down.

This is easier said then done. In fact, if they could calm down on their own, they already would have. The truth is that they need help. They don’t have the skills yet to self-regulate, but they are learning!

What is wrong with you? You know better.

Yes, they SHOULD know better. This is especially true if the person you are talking to is older than a toddler. They should know to keep their hands to themselves. They should know to walk in a library. They should know to use a quiet voice in a restaurant. However, for whatever reason in this moment, they are unable to!

Why did you do that?

They have no clue. This one is a lost cause. Seriously. You might get a “it felt good” or “I wanted to”, but most likely, you are going to be met with a “I don’t know” and the shrugging of shoulders.

Quit being “bad”.

Oh, this one gets me. You see, I don’t like this one for ANY person or child! It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine. There are so many other phrases to say to a child misbehaving, rather than a phrase that is hurtful.

It’s not that big of a deal.

Not to you! However, to them it is the BIGGEST deal! To them, that wet shirt is like daggers to their skin. To them, that fan whirring sounds like a helicopter trying to land in their room. To them, its a HUGE DEAL!

Why don’t you just….{fill in the blank} 

Because they can’t. Because they are overstimulated. Because they aren’t processing the information. The why’s could go on and on.

Go away.

This one just makes me want to give them a big hug. You might think other’s don’t say it, but I see it on the playground, at the park, at birthday parties. Someone that struggles with sensory processing disorder can have annoying behaviors. However, they are not annoying. They have lots of great qualities. It takes a lot of patience to find them!

Quit being a baby.

Ugh… No, they are not being a baby, a sissy, a pansy, silly, or ridiculous. To someone with sensory processing disorder, their problems are very real to them and their frustrations are very real. Please don’t downplay what they are going through.

Don’t know anyone with sensory processing disorder? Why should you care?

Here’s the thing. You might know someone with a Sensory Processing Disorder diagnosis. You might not even know anyone that knows they struggle with these things. However, I guarantee you that you will meet (and perhaps love) someone that struggles with sensory processing. You might see a child at the park constantly pushing on everyone. You might see a collegue that constantly taps their pen on their desk. You might even be married to someone who can’t stand to be touched. All of these behaviors are connected to the way our brain processes information. Maybe, just maybe, instead of making a comment that makes them feel “wrong” for what they are doing, we can try to re-phase our comments to help them learn to be successful.

THINGS TO NEVER SAY TO Someone with Sensory Processing Disorder

What to say to someone with Sensory Processing Disorder

I notice….

Maybe you would like to….

How can I help your body get what it needs?

This seems to be frustrating you, what if we try….

If you need ….., you can go here to do it.

I am trying to understand what you are frustrated about, can you show me?

I understand it is hard for you to…

Would you like to go to a quiet space to work?

Would you like me to give you some space?

I want to help. Is it okay if I ….

Honestly, just taking interest in their needs and in how their brain processes information will mean the world to them! Often times (especially in children) they have no idea why they are doing the things they are doing. They do not know how to “make a better choice” or “control their body”. It is hard for them every single day. It is our job to teach them strategies so they can be successful and feel good about their bodies and the way they process information.

The best way to do that is get informed. BEFORE my son was diagnosed, I had no idea what sensory processing disorder was, let alone how our 8 senses affect all of us every single day. It has been a very long journey to get where I am today, and even now, we struggle every day. In my newest best-selling book, Sensory Processing 101, I talk about sensory processing along with pediatric therapists. It is our goal to make sensory processing so well known, that there will be acceptance for behaviors that our out of the “norm.”

Stop Saying these things to parents of a child with Sensory Processing Disorder