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Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory processing disorder is a condition in which the brain has trouble processing information from the senses and acting on it.

Some people with sensory processing disorder react too strongly to things around them. Some everyday sounds can hurt or be too much. Even a shirt's light touch can irritate the skin.

Some other people with sensory processing disorder may:

  • Be uncoordinated

  • Hit into things.

  • Not be able to tell where their arms and legs are in space.

  • find it hard to talk or play.

There are eight senses that send information to the brain.

We know about sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smell. The three that we don't know as much about are vestibular, proprioceptive, and interoceptive.

  • Visual information (sight): Our eyes let us see. They let light in, which makes tiny pictures on the back of our eyeballs. The signals from our eyes are sent to our brain, which figures out what we are looking at.

  • Gustatory input (taste): Food and drinks affect the cells in our mouths that sense taste. They tell us what tastes, feels, and feels like. They are grouped in the mouth, tongue, and throat and pick up five tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umani (savory).

  • Tactile input (touch): Our tactile system helps us understand important feelings like pressure, texture, hot and cold, and pain. This means being able to tell the difference between a light touch and a firm touch and between dry, wet, and messy textures. Our sense of touch is also linked to relationships and bonding.

  • Hearing input (auditory): Our ears let us know where sounds are coming from, how close they are, and if we've heard them before. This helps us decide if sounds are important or just part of our daily lives.

  • Olfactory input (smell): Our nose has receptors that pick up on the smells around us. They send this information to the brain along a path of nerves. People sometimes forget how important smell is. It is strongly linked to emotions and memories (neurobiologically), so it can cause trauma reactions that were not expected.

  • Vestibular input (balance): These receptors are in the inner ear, and they are stimulated when the head moves, changes position, or turns. Vestibular input affects our sense of where our bodies are in space, our posture and muscle tone, the stability of our visual field, our ability to coordinate both sides of our bodies, our sense of balance, and our awareness of gravity.

  • Proprioceptive input (motion): Our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joint receptors are all part of this system. It tells us where our body is in space and can sense and control force and pressure. It gives us a sense of stability and helps us know where we are and what we are doing.

  • Interoceptive input (internal): The interoceptive system lets us feel what is going on inside our bodies. It is sometimes called the "hidden sense." It has an effect on our emotions and sense of well-being, and it can tell when something changes inside of us. These include hunger and fullness, thirst, body temperature, heart and breathing rates, social touch, muscle tension, itchiness, nausea, sleepiness, and more.

Most of the time, children are the ones who have trouble processing their senses. These difficulties may present in adulthood too. Sensory processing problems are common in children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities.

What do people with sensory processing disorder look like?

SPD can affect just one sense or several. Children with SPD may overreact to things like sounds, clothes, and the way food feels. Or, they may not react enough to what they feel. This makes them want more intense stimuli that give them a rush. For example: Jumping off of high things or swinging too high on the playground.

Children with SPD aren't always just one or the other. They can be both too sensitive and not sensitive enough.

If a child is too sensitive or hypersensitive, it could be because:

  • Clothes may feel too scratchy or itchy.

  • Lights may feel too bright.

  • Sounds seem to be too loud.

  • Soft touches seem too hard.

  • The textures of food make them gag.

  • Have bad balance or come across as clumsy.

  • Are scared to use the swings.

  • React badly to sudden movements, touches, loud noises, or bright lights.

  • Have behavior problems.

Some of these signs are also caused by bad motor skills. Your child might find it hard to hold a pencil or pair of scissors. He or she might find it hard to climb stairs or have weak muscles. He or she may also have trouble with language.

When these things happen to older kids, they may feel bad about themselves. They could make people feel alone and even cause depression.

Children may be hyposensitivity (sensory-seeking) if they:

  • Can't stay put

  • Look for thrills (loves jumping, heights, and spinning).

  • Do not get dizzy when spinning.

  • Don't pay attention to how people act.

  • Don't recognize personal space.

  • Think about things (including their hands and clothing).

  • Seek visual stimulation (like electronics).

  • Have problems sleeping.

  • Don't notice when their nose is running or their face is dirty.

How can you tell if someone has sensory processing disorder?

Parents may notice that their child is not acting like other kids. Most parents might not know why. Meltdowns can happen when a person has too much to take in. These are very different from temper tantrums because the child can't stop them.

Here are some other signs that your child may have:

  • Is easily overrun by people and places

  • Seeks out quiet spots in noisy, crowded environments

  • Is easily startled by loud noises

  • Has trouble with bright light

  • Won't wear clothes that are itchy or otherwise uncomfortable.

  • Tries not to touch or hug people.

  • Has a strong reaction to the way certain foods feel or smell

  • Refuses to try new foods and only eats a small number of foods.

  • Small changes in routine or environment upset them, and they don't like to try new things.

Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor about how your child acts. He or she could suggest that you see an occupational therapist. These experts can tell if your child has SPD. He or she will probably see how your child acts in some situations. Your child will be asked questions by the therapist. All of these will help figure out what's wrong.

What are the three ways that sensory processing disorders show themselves?

SPD has a wide range of symptoms that depend on which sense is affected, how that sense is affected, and how bad the condition is.

SPD can affect all of the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, vestibular, proprioception. Symptoms can be different for each subtype. Because of this, SPD is hard to understand and figure out. The person may have one, two, or as many as eight different sensory systems and one, two, or as many as six different subtypes. 86 or more than 260,000 different ways that SPD can show itself. Each person with SPD needs to be evaluated on their own, and no two kids get the same treatment.

People with SPD misinterpret things like touch, sound, and movement that most people don't even notice. They may feel overwhelmed by information, crave intense sensory experiences, or not be able to understand what other people are feeling. They may also have sensory-motor symptoms like a weak body, being clumsy or awkward, or having motor skills that aren't as good as they should be.

Summary of the Types of Sensory Processing Disorder

Pattern 1: Disorder of Sensory Modulation

  • Over-reactive to senses

  • Under-responsive to senses

  • Wanting to Feel

Pattern 2: Motor Disorders Caused by Sensations

  • Postural Disorder

  • Dyspraxia

Pattern 3: Disorder of Sensory Discrimination

Does autism include sensory processing disorder?

Due to their similarities, sensory processing disorder (SPD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are often mixed up. SPD is often a sign of ASD, but not all children with SPD have autism.

Does sensory processing disorder go away as a child gets older? (can remove this also and add a paragraph about meaning of sensory integration and sensory integration therapy)

Children with other conditions, like autism spectrum disorder, often have Sensory Processing Disorder. The symptoms of this disorder are spread out, like the symptoms of autism. But, unlike autism, the child may be able to grow out of this disorder.

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