What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

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Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurological condition affecting 1 in 20 children. 

Key points

  • Someone with Sensory Processing Disorder may either avoid sensory experiences or seek them out
  • There are a number of interventions to help someone with Sensory Processing Disorder

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

People living with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)  misinterpret the world around them through hearing, vision, taste, smell, touch, pressure or movement.

If a person with SPD is over-reactive and avoids sensory experiences they are hypersensitive, but if they are under-reactive and seek out sensory experiences, they are hyposensitive.

People with SPD may also have difficulty with motor skills, react with strong emotional behaviours or have ‘meltdowns’. Children may present learning and behavioural problems as they try and cope with the stress of everyday experiences.

Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder

Other symptoms and features of SPD include:

  • Heightened reactivity to sound, touch or movement
  • Being under-reactive to certain sensations (not noticing name being called, being touched, high pain threshold)
  • Appearing lethargic or disinterested, in ‘their own world’
  • Difficulty regulating behavioural and emotional responses
  • Distraction, struggling to pay attention and to concentrate
  • Under-developed motor skills
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Restricted eating habits
  • Becoming distressed during self-care tasks
  • Loving movement
  • Avoiding movement based equipment (swings, slides)
  • Low muscle tone, tiring easily and often slumped in postures
  • Performing tasks with too much force, big movements, moving too fast and writing too light or too hard
  • Delayed communication and social skills
  • Preferring to play on their own or having difficulty in knowing how to play with other children
  • Difficulty accepting changes in routine or transitioning between tasks

What can help?

Children with SPD may benefit from a range of different supports in their life to help them develop and live with everyday stimulation, and the types of support they benefit from will vary from child to child.

Medical, occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychology interventions may help your child cope with processing the world around them. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) may fund some of these supports for your child if they are eligible, particularly through Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) which seeks to give your child the best start to life.

If you are concerned about your child’s reactions to everyday stimuli, speak to your GP or paediatrician.

What more do you want to know about Sensory Processing Disorder? Tell us in the comment section below. 

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