Sensory Processing Disorder: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment


Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition in which a person generally does not respond to sounds, smells, textures, and other stimuli. They can be so sensitive to, say, a movie soundtrack that they can't sit in a movie theater, or so insensitive to stimuli that they go out of their way to find it. Formerly known as sensory integration dysfunction, SPD is more common in children (although it can affect adults) and often affects people with certain developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder ( ASD ), attention with hyperactivity (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder. (TOC). Diagnosing SPD can be challenging because there are no formal criteria for the condition, but there is a relatively standard treatment for sensory processing disorder, a type of occupational therapy known as sensory integration therapy .

Symptoms of sensory processing disorder

Children with sensory processing disorders generally do not respond to stimuli that would not be affected by others in one of three ways. They can be hypersensitive (also called hypersensitive) to bright light; Loud, sudden, or prolonged sounds (such as the hum of a blender or even music) a scratching or itchy sensation of fabrics, such as wool or clothing tags, on the skin; and even certain tastes or smells. They may also be unable to tolerate physical contact with other people, for example the pressure of a hug. Being in a crowd can be overwhelming for children with SPF.

This overreaction to external stimuli can cause anxiety in the child, problems with daily activities and difficulty in adapting to new situations. Exaggerated reactions may be mild or the child must leave the situation immediately. As a result, children with SPF may have a difficult time interacting with other children.

Other children may have a mute or delayed response to stimuli, known as an underreaction or underreaction. For example, they may not respond to pain from a scraped knee or discomfort caused by extreme cold or heat. The brains of some children with sensory processing deficits cannot properly process messages from the muscles or joints, affecting their motor skills or posture. They can be called clumsy or stupid, or they can be considered "flexible", like having to lean against a wall while standing, for example.

The third manifestation of SPL is sensory cravings, in which the child feels the need to seek stimuli. The need to "feel" or to experience is so strong that they can act .

Some children with SPD struggle with anxiety and may have other disorders as well, including:

  • Dyspraxia violation of coordination, affecting the development of fine motor skills. Young children with dyspraxia may reach milestones such as walking or slow feeding. As they get older, they may find it difficult to write, draw, and get some exercise .
  • Posture disorder: poor perception of body position and movement (as described above ).
  • Sensory Discrimination Disorder: inability to detect subtle differences in visual, tactile, auditory, and physical signals.


The exact cause of the impairment in sensory processing has not yet been determined. According to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing, several studies have shown that SPD can be inherited; Prenatal or delivery complications, as well as certain environmental factors, can also play a role .

Other research suggests a possible genetic link. One study examined a sample of more than 1,000 young twins and found that when one of the twins was hypersensitive to sound and light, the probability that the other twin was also increased .

Additionally, there are studies that suggest that the brains of people with CPD may be structured and ordered differently than the brains of other people. For example, a 2013 study used brain imaging to show structural differences in the posterior white matter in children with SPD that correlate with atypical sensory behavior .

In 2014, another study examined white matter neural connectivity in children with SPD and found notable differences in areas of the brain that control perception and sensory integration .


Diagnosing an SPD can be troublesome. Many doctors consider this to be a special disease and there are even clinics that specifically treat it. However, at the same time, sensory processing disorder is not mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Instead, sensory issues are listed as a possible symptom of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) .

However, the first step in confirming that a child has SPD is to observe the behaviors that indicate the disorder and seek a diagnosis. In addition to considering these behaviors, the doctor will want to know about the developmental history and general health of the child. They can undergo medical examinations, psychological evaluations, and speech and language tests.

There are also many screening tests for SPD, including sensory integration and praxis tests (SIPT) and sensory processing measurement (SPM) .

Sensory impulse in SPD is sometimes confused with attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Watch out

The first line of treatment for SPD includes a form of occupational therapy known as sensory integration therapy . This approach includes a "sensory diet" consisting of a daily menu of individualized sensory support strategies and a variety of activities, equipment, and devices designed to stimulate and / or desensitize the child, depending on whether they are hyper-reactive or hypo-reactive. …

For a hyperreactive child, these may be:

  • Dim the lights or wear sunglasses or a visor to block out fluorescent overhead lighting.
  • Wearing earplugs or headphones in a noisy environment
  • Avoid products with strong odors (eg perfumes, air fresheners, soaps).
  • Limit food choices to avoid personal aversions (eg, Very spicy, textured, cold, hot)
  • Wear clothing that is tailored to your individual needs (for example, with tight-fitting belts and / or abrasive fabrics, seams, and labels).
  • Brushing is a technique in which a soft bristle brush is applied to the skin to help the baby resist touch.

Children with a lack of responsiveness or sensationalism can benefit from:

  • Toys that stimulate the senses (such as safe chew toys and fidgets)
  • Opportunities for rocking, rocking, and other sensory-stimulating actions.
  • Food with strong taste and / or texture, hot and cold drinks
  • Fix furniture to reduce the likelihood of collision with sharp or hard surfaces.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be effective in gradually increasing tolerance to overwhelming sensory experiences.

Get the word of drug information

Sensory Processing Disorder can be challenging for children and their parents. Early intervention is ideal because children can respond well to therapy as they develop physically and psychologically. It is also important to educate family members, teachers, and caregivers on how to help prevent stress in children with SPD so that they can function better in social and school settings. The symptoms of SPD may go away or be easier to manage once coping strategies are successfully integrated into the child's daily life .

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