Louis' Literature: Making Sense
Author of “Making Sense: A Guide to Sensory Issues” Rachel Schneider ’05 recalled her first memory on the Brandeis campus with the Justice.
“I remember the first day I stepped foot on [the Brandeis] campus with my parents for a tour. … I stopped at a small statue with the school’s motto, ‘Truth, Even Unto Its Innermost Parts,’” said Schneider. “I spent 27 years of my life not knowing why I was so sensitive, quirky, needy, particular and different. … I was always looking for the truth down to its deepest levels. It’s a funny thing to say that Brandeis won me over via a statue, and it’s not the entire truth I suppose, but it was the first hint for me that I’d found my home.”
She only discovered her truth when she was diagnosed with “Sensory Processing Disorder” in 2010 at the age of 27. SPD is a neurological condition that occurs when the nervous system fails to properly receive and organize messages from the senses. For individuals with SPD, this leads to inappropriate motor and behavioral responses that can cause confusion, distress and discomfort.
Although SPD includes various subtypes and often depends on a person’s individual experience, Schneider has experienced sensory over-responsivity with sight and hearing, sensory craving for touch and difficulty with proprioception, in which she struggles with the spatial orientation of her body.
During her time at school, she was unaware of SPD as she was misdiagnosed with panic disorder at 14. Schneider initially struggled to transition into Brandeis, yet despite her unique situation, Schneider proved to thrive in her new environment. At Brandeis, Schneider majored in Psychology and minored in English. She was vice president of the Culinary Arts Club and wrote poetry in her spare time, once performing at an open mic night at Cholmondeley’s.
Graduating after three years, Schneider returned to her home of New York City. She began copywriting and technical editing for various construction projects around New York City. Then she returned to graduate school to pursue psychology and received her M.A. in Mental Health Counseling, during which she also received her delayed diagnosis of SPD.
Schneider shared, “I decided to turn my love of people into a free-time advocacy and a writing career related to SPD … In my writing day job, I get to use my writing skills to target diverse populations, people with disabilities — SPD is considered an invisible disability by some, so I love these parts — and international audiences, all of which play to my skills and interests.”
Schneider also began to share her experience with SPD online through various articles and blogs. With a relatively unknown neurological disorder that had few resources, she first wrote the article “The Neurotypicals’ Guide to Adults with Sensory Processing Disorder” in order to educate a friend on her own experiences. Her article gained the attention of readers and her publisher, eventually inspiring her book.
Through her book and other platforms — such as the 19th International 3S Symposium hosted by the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder, dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals with SPD, Schneider has continued to share her story and help others in the SPD community.
Schneider shared, “I’m just talking about something I have, but there are people out there I can help by letting them know they’re in good company. I used to feel like there were things I couldn’t do, and now there are things I can do just a certain way. Your own perception of your life impacts the life you have.”
Now, Schneider is preparing for the release of her second book, “Sensory Like You,” the first book written for children with SPD by adults with SPD.
Schneider said, “I wish there was somebody like me when I was a kid who would’ve written a book for me. Work that I do here is for the little girl inside of me. No one came for her, so I’m going back for her.”