3 Must-Read Books for Every Parent of a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder

In the beginning of my older son’s journey with sensory processing disorder, I devoured every sensory processing related book I could get my hands on. My anxiety about H’s atypical development led to an overzealous attempt to learn everything I possibly could about SPD.

I'm not going to lie, it got a little crazy.

Desperate to understand what was going on with him, I constantly bombarded his occupational and physical therapists with questions, concerns, and “what ifs” based on the information I was taking in (sorry Evelina and Briana!!)...

I read that the vestibular system governs all of the other sensory systems; can you explain this to me?

I read that kids with sensory processing disorder often have anxiety- what will this look like for H when he’s older?

I read that kids who have vestibular and visual processing issues often have learning disabilities when they reach school-age- do you think this is going to be the case for H?

My anxiety-induced information-seeking frenzy was a classic example of the phrase too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Yes, the more I read the more I learned, but at a certain point, the scale tipped and I began to feel overwhelmed instead of empowered.

If you’re in the same boat, I want to help. I’ve read countless books on SPD, but I’m here to make it easy on you. Here are the top three that will best help you understand SPD and how it affects your child:

1. The Sensory-Sensitive Child
by Karen A. Smith, Ph.D. & Karen R. Gouze, Ph.D.

If you’re going to pick just one book, make it this one. Drs. Smith and Gouze are psychologists with impressive credentials who have been working with children and families for almost two decades. They are also parents of boys who have sensory processing disorder. In The Sensory-Sensitive Child, they interweave their personal parenting journeys with their clinical experience to explain sensory processing disorder in a way that’s easy-to-understand, practical, and enlightening.

Their personal parenting journeys are both touching (keep the tissues handy) and inspiring. Here’s a passage from the beginning of the book that had me in tears and made me feel like someone else out there really understood what I was going through with H.

The possibility never occurred to me that Evan was doing the best that he could: that he was actually trying to do what he was told. It never occurred to me that he was not to blame for his failure to follow directions. Nor did it occur to me that my husband and I were not to blame for our inability to make him mind. My training as a psychologist had led me to believe that any behavior could be changed with the appropriate combination of rewards and punishments. It was a simple, straightforward formula that ought to work in my family. Why wasn’t it working?

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Gouze who, as a result of her experience parenting a child with SPD, has made it her life’s goal to bring professional legitimacy to the impact Sensory Processing Disorder has on children. Among her insights and advice was the acknowledgment that parenting a child with atypical development takes a toll on marriages-a crucial reminder of the importance of parenting as a team.

If you have a child with SPD, move this book to the top of your reading list. It will deepen your understanding of SPD and give you practical parenting tools to help make your child’s and your family’s lives more manageable.

2. Raising a Sensory Smart Child
By Lindsey Biel, M.A, OTR/L & Nancy Peske

Biel, a former advertising executive turned occupational therapist, and Peske, mother to a son who received early intervention therapy from Biel for developmental delays with underlying sensory issues, have teamed up to write a comprehensive guide to understanding sensory processing disorder. As I flipped through my dog-eared copy to write this summary, I couldn’t help but laugh- almost every single page has large portions of underlined text with accompanying notes in the margins. Here’s an example (this passage was both underlined and starred-ha!):

For some children, sensory processing does not develop smoothly. Because they can’t rely on their senses to give them an accurate picture of the world, they don’t know how to behave in response, and they may have trouble learning and behaving appropriately. The essential first step toward helping your child with sensory issues is to develop empathy for how he experiences the world.”

When you read Raising a Sensory Smart Child, you’ll learn:

  • What sensory integration is
  • How to go about finding the best professional help for your child
  • “Sensory diet” activities to meet your child’s needs
  • Practical parenting solutions for challenging sensory-related behaviors
  • Ways to advocate for your child at school
  • How to empower your child and/or teen
  • Complementary therapies, resources, and helpful websites

I’ll leave you with one more pearl of wisdom that I both underlined and starred:

Don’t get caught up in thinking that because your child needs extra accomodations he has to be protected from every difficulty. Be confident that your child will develop more acceptable behavior, and recognize that building skills is a process that involves a lot of repetition over time.”

Amen, sisters!

3. Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals
by Angie Voss OTR

Wondering why your child craves tight and small places, dislikes wearing shoes, or sleeps with his pillow over his face? Maybe your child falls intentionally and frequently (my younger son) or overreacts to minor cuts/scrapes (my older son). Whatever “strange” (read: irritating and confusing!) behaviors your child exhibits, Voss has you covered. In Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals, she decodes 210 of the most common sensory cues your child might be giving you.

You’ll understand what’s going on when he exhibits perplexing behaviors, and you’ll gain practical and tangible ways to intervene. With this new understanding, you’ll feel less irritated and more empathic the next time your little one insists that the seams on his pants have to be “just right” or chews on his sleeves.

You can also visit Voss’s amazing website for more sensory resources including several free printables.

There are many books on SPD that are worth reading, but if you’re worn out, overworked, and pressed for time, put these three on your nightstand and leave it at that. Don’t overwhelm yourself like I did-you’ve got enough on your plate already!

If you’re not in a state of overwhelm and are searching for more recommendations, Click Here.

Which SPD books have been the most helpful for you? Are there other resources that have helped- blogs, podcasts? Let us know, the Sensory Mom readers and I would love to hear your recommendations.


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