UPDATE – Read the April, 2011 update to this story.

A note from Summit

The below was provided to Summit Professional Education by Lucy Jane Miller, Ph.D, OTR of the SPD Foundation and one of our faculty members, Doreit Bialer, MA, OTR/L. The topic of Sensory Processing Disorder is one of great importance and is finally getting the national attention it deserves. We feel this is important to share with our community as it is our opinion that any information provided to the public should be as complete as possible. Summit also stands behind our instructors and their associates in their greater mission to improve the lives of others through education and action.

Here is the complete note from Dr. Lucy Jane Miller:

Dear Friends of the Foundation,

On Friday February 18, The Oprah Show had an exclusive story titled, “The 7-Year-Old Who Tried to Kill His Mother,” a frightening, yet true story of young Zach and his mother, Laurie.

“Sensory integration disorder was Zach’s first diagnosis and that has to do with how Zach perceived his world,” Laurie stated on the show. “So he was incredibly sensitive to everything. He would do things like throw himself on the ground, thrash his body, where a normal kid, it would hurt, and he would get pleasure. He would laugh. Sound bothered him. Light, clothing, that sort of thing, and everything was accentuated 10 or 15 times of what a normal person would experience. That’s what sensory is.”

Zach has a variety of mental health disorders. The first disorder mentioned by Oprah was “sensory integration disorder” as the initial diagnosis for Zach. The majority of the show focused on the tough challenges of mental illness and the family’s journey. Zach is currently in a residential therapeutic school in New Hampshire that specializes in alternative approaches to helping children like Zach.

Sensory Integration Disorder (also called Sensory Processing Disorder) was not explained in depth, nor was Zach’s mental health diagnoses, leaving the impression that children with a diagnosis of SPD, may be inclined to rage attacks that could lead to attempts to kill others. We have received a plethora of letters from parents and others who are frustrated and puzzled by the Oprah show.

Although clearly there is a misunderstanding about what Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration Disorder is, this constitutes a great opportunity for all of us who care about the disorder to finally bring it to the attention of the Oprah Show. We have been trying to reach Oprah for over 10 years and this may just be our ticket into the consciousness of their producers.

We are rallying a grassroots letter writing campaign.

Our goal is to get 10,000 letters to Oprah by next Friday, March 4. See our facts & guidelines page for our suggestions, instructions for submissions and ideas about what could be included in your letter. Please also send a copy of your letter to us at oprahresponse@spdfoundation.net so we can tally the letters submitted.

Join our letter writing campaign

Stay positive. Start your letters with what was right, e.g., “SPD is a devastating and unrecognized disorder,” and add other facts as you wish (see specific facts posted on our facts & guidelines page) rather than focusing on what you felt was incorrect.

If you wish to link to the show go to:


Sincerely believing in the power of grassroots response campaigns, and in parents,
Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR