Sensory Processing Disorder and Migraines

Welcome back!  I hope everyone had a great holiday. We did, although it was quiet because of illness. We had some great family together, which is important.  We also dealt with a few things over the holidays concerning monkey and his disabilities which is why I want to talk to you today.

A lot of people don’t understand when I tell them monkey has SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) and many believe monkey is just acting up to act up because he’s six which isn’t the case. There are issues regarding SPD (real issues) that many people call excuses.

SPD Facts

  • Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as “sensory integration dysfunction”) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder is a complex disorder of the brain that affects developing children and adults.
  • At least one in twenty people in the general population may be affected by SPD.
  • In children who are gifted and those with ADHD, Autism, and fragile X syndrome, the prevalence of SPD is much higher than in the general population.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder has unique sensory symptoms that are not explained by other known disorders.

New Years’ day monkey woke up with another migraine and this time it was bad. He immediately began vomiting and refused to drink anything. ย So off to the ER we went. ย It was like a full moon I tell you. The hospital was super busy.

Now the monkey is no stranger when it comes to hospitals. He’s been poked and prodded since he was born, being a Children’s Hospital baby and them not knowing what was initially wrong with him before we got his diagnosis of mild CP, early-onset bipolar disorder and SPD. ย 

Still, as parents it is never easy to see your child in pain, ill and not knowing the underlying cause of their discomfort.

After waiting for over 9 hours and finally getting a referral to see a ped’s specialist. I began wondering if monkey’s SPD was somehow linked to his getting migraines.  He’s sensitive to light and sounds and perhaps too much gaming or watching tv is causing a connection between SPD and his headaches.

Symptoms of SPD our monkey suffers from

  • Problems eating and sleeping
  • Refusing to be left alone with anyone but myself or dad
  • Irritable when getting dressed (although this has gotten much better with age)
  • Sensory with clothing and materials (again this is getting better)
  • Resists cuddling, arching away when being hugged
  • Motor delays
  • Oversensitive to loud noises (wears earphones in school) to help with concentration
  • Sensitive to smells, other people and foods
  • Difficulty at times making friends
  • Sometimes in everyone’s face and space
  • Frequent tantrums when things don’t go right
  • Easily overwhelmed
  • Unaware at times of pain or other people

I don’t know if migraines are linked or not. We have an appointment this week to see a specialist so I will keep everyone posted. If your child has SPD though and is getting migraines, don’t leave it.

It’s not common for young children to suffer from severe migraines and there could be an underlying problem. So be sure to get it checked out!

Thanks for reading!


  1. jessica cilley August 10, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    I’m so frustrated. My 9 year old daughter has sensory problems. Everyday she came home from school crying because her head hurts. This summer it’s been everyday and some migraines now. I’m getting so angry. The doctors don’t look at her sensory, I had one send me away because he don’t know about sensory. Now we have new doctor that sent out a referral, haven’t even had a call from anywhere in months. My poor daughter is going through this daily and I can’t help her. Not sure what to do for her. I know it’s the lights, and all the noise, etc. But feeling like we’re not getting to the right doctors here in maine!

    1. Jodi - Site Author August 11, 2016 at 8:38 am

      Hey Jessica, sorry to hearing your daughter is suffering, not fun for any parent to watch their child go through this. All I can suggest is removing or limiting anything that can bring on the headaches. We discovered with my son being on a tablet or ipad for longer than an hour is a trigger. Lights bright are a trigger so he wears sun glasses now. These things all help, and don’t stop being a mama bear. You are her advocate. Do you have a children’s hospital in Maine? If so contact them personally and tell them you are getting no help for her. I wish you luck and hope things get better. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Jodi - Site Author August 31, 2016 at 3:30 am

      It sounds very frustrating Jessica, I feel you but keep hanging in there. You are her advocate and keep fighting until someone listens. I know it’s hard, and upsetting but sooner or later they have to listen.

  2. Jessica May 10, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    I realize this is a few years old! But I’m curious, what kind of specialist did you see to help treat or manage the conditions? I need to find out who to go to for this, my son is suffering severely and I don’t know what kind of doctor to turn to for help.

    1. Jodi - Site Author May 11, 2016 at 12:54 am

      Hey Jessica, the first thing we did was go see a pediatrician to explain our concerns, I asked to see a specialist at Children’s Hospital. He put in a request and our son saw a team of specialists at Sunny Hill. Then we went from there. Our son was also registered with Child Development.

  3. Eileen Vidal March 15, 2016 at 8:13 am

    I have a 14 year old son. He ha developmental delays, autism and apraxia ( non verbal). He has pain followed by a meltdown daily. I took him to a GI doctor who gave him a diet and protocal for the GI issues. My son has a meltdow (spontaneous ) mostly every morning. His ears get red, he will hold his head and ears and even put my hand on his ears. He sometimes cries. I think the pain is coming from his head area. I had an MRI done as well as his ears cleaned and want figure out what is causing these episodes. He is usually happy but these episodes ( which included hitting his head with his fist, placing my hand tightly on his head and and running) happen and have also woken him up from his sleep. I was wondering if anyone in the group has experienced this? I think maybe it’s ringing in the ears? Its hard to tell because he doesn’t speak. Any advice or doctor referrals is welcomed. I love in Fairfax, Vs but am willing to travel to a good doctor. He has been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and he has all the issues with over and under sensitive. Any comments and advice would help.

    1. Jodi - Site Author March 20, 2016 at 11:42 pm

      Best to keep track of things like what he’s eating daily, see if anything is triggering the episodes. I noticed for my son red food dye causes symptoms. We keep track of his sleep as well. I hope things get better for him soon Eileen and thanks for sharing.

  4. Jesse September 11, 2013 at 3:06 am

    Hey, just wanted to say hi – I'm an adult with SPD, and I suffered with it undiagnosed as a child. I've recently realized that when I was a preteen, I used video games and television to help me manage my sensory input – it's counterintuitive, but having several video screens on at once was soothing to me, and attempting to live the west coast ideal of less video input has actually made things worse for me. Something to consider!

    1. Jodi Shaw - Site Author September 12, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      My son uses the ipad a lot or laptop it calms him down so I have to agree with you. He loves things that are visual, but recently he's been able to explore more of his surroundings outside, which has been nice. Thanks so much Jesse for sharing our input and visiting us ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. L. August 8, 2013 at 2:12 am

    I have had sensory issues my entire life that I always thought were related to migraines. If I have to drive with a migraine my sensitivity to the sound of honking or people changing lanes in front of me or any kind of movement can cause me to have sensory overload to the point that I have to pull over for a few minutes to calm down. I get migraines with weather changes.

  6. Jessica J. April 25, 2013 at 4:27 am

    I found your site when I googled SPD and migraines. I have always believed my daughter's migraines and SPD are linked somehow. She was diagnosed with severe chronic migraines at 15 months old and SPD at 22 months (after some battle). Hers seem to worsen if she accidentally eats too much gluten, gets overtired, watches too much TV, is dehydrated, gets overwhelmed (by anything or nothing), and WEATHER. Every single time the weather changes it brings on a migraine. We're in Michigan and the weather changes from winter and snowflakes to sunny and 70 within the same day, so she and I both really suffer.

    Have you noticed any weather/pressure changes affect Monkey the way they do Sophia? Interested to see and hear what you've tried to relieve his pain. Does he miss school because of them?


    1. Jodi Shaw - Site Author April 26, 2013 at 3:51 am

      Hi Jess, yes definitely. We get a lot of rain and cold damp weather here, and then it switches to a higher and warmer temperature and that can bring on a migraine for Trace. I also notice when he's on my iphone or ipad too much watching netflix on a small screen, he really gets it bad. Trace is a picky eater so I haven't noticed the gluten affecting his headaches, yet. He just missed three days because of it this week, and to help the pain because he throws up a lot! We give him gatorade for the electrolytes and lots of popsicles, plus I give him both Tylynol and Advil about an hour apart which the emerge doctor said to do, it works so much better than just one dose of something. The other thing that truly helps is Trace has sunglasses he wears to school or in the house when the pain is bad, because bright lights bother him so much. His teacher and class is awesome, they dim the lights for him and he wears his glasses all day at school.

      Thanks for sharing your daughter's story. It's important we spread the word on this because my doctor doesn't always think there is a link between SPD and headaches but the more research I do, the more I gain understanding and stories like yours helps other readers searching for answers to let them know they are not alone!

  7. Insane Mamacita January 2, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    Very informative. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Deanna T. January 2, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    My good real life friend's 8 year old son has SPD and also migraines, and yes in his case they appear to be tied together. ๐Ÿ™ I feel sorry for your poor little guy. Migraines suck, such a lousy thing for a child to have to deal with. I hope they find an answer for you.

  9. Whispered Inspiratio January 2, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    I really hope that they can give you a definitive answer. I could only imagine how hard it must be not knowing. Thanks for sharing this valuable info, people should be informed before they judge.

  10. Cheryl January 2, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I have been researching this for several months as our daughter has been showing some of these symptoms for a while now (sensitive to smells, noise and certain types of clothing). We noticed it during our previous trip to Disney. She was screaming and crying about it being too loud and some restaurants being too stinky ๐Ÿ™

    She has been making the same comments at home too when we are out and about and at school (music class and gym class is very overwhelming for her). I will be following up soon with her doctor and looking for headphones to reduce noise (she requested it).

    I really want to help her and hope to figure this out soon with our family doctor.

  11. pam January 2, 2013 at 8:28 am

    We are just starting this journey with my son. Tomorrow we go for a CAP test and then we see our doctor next Friday. He is very sensitive to smells, noise, and several other symptoms which you listed. I think you'll be a great resource for me as I learn more about this

    1. Jodi Shaw - Site Author January 2, 2013 at 10:03 am

      Awww sorry Pam, but glad you are getting help. Let us know how it goes and yes check back as we begin a journey to bring more awareness to this disorder.

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