Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder was in recent times referred to as Sensory Integration Disorder. I personally think that integration is a better descriptor word than processing when it comes to general understanding.

SPD is a neurological condition whereby the brain and body do not properly integrate or process the senses that all of us take in everyday. It causes children to be unable to ignore or compartmentalize everyday senses.

The sensory organs such as the eyes and ears work properly in these children, at least in the most basic sense. But the perception by the child can be quite abnormal or excessive. These excessive perceptions can then result in very unexpected behavioral issues.

For example, these children might:

  • Find the tags on their clothing to be overwhelmingly irritating.
  • They often hate to wear shoes and socks.
  • They might choose food choices based purely on sight, smell, and texture.
  • Certain smells can be overwhelming to the point of causing sickness.
  • Sensitivity to light and sunshine might be more extreme.

The challenge of course is recognizing the sensory processing disorder in the child. These children often appear fidgety, agitated, irritable, overly emotional and sensitive.

All symptoms that we also use to describe ADHD and bipolar or mood disorders.

So what is one to do? I believe that if you have a young child with reasonable symptoms and you go looking for an SPD diagnosis, you are likely to find it. And though I am not a doctor I can say that it would make sense to me that SPD might overlap with things like ADHD.

There is evidence that it is common for learning disabled and/or gifted children to have a sensory processing disorder. If you think about it, this makes sense. LD and gifted brains are, in layman's terms, wired differently. So if seems easy to consider that different wiring might effect sensory integration as well.

The only people truly skilled to diagnose and treat sensory disorders are occupational therapists. Through multitudes of activities, they expose the child to numerous senses, thereby helping the brain process and organize the information.

If you read My Story then you know that my own son was originally diagnosed with a sensory integration disorder. And we went to OT, every week for almost a year. Took a few months break and went back again for almost 9 months. I will say that on certain days when they had him doing lots of physical, whole body activities, I think it helped. And sometimes if we missed several appointments in a row, his agitation levels would rise.

So I believe their is great validity to the concept. The issue you might encounter is finding an OT who is skilled in diagnosing and treating the disorder. We went through 3 or 4 different OT's during our time and probably only 2 of them really seemed to understand what they were doing. The other ones kept focusing on fine motor stuff. An issue he had but certainly not his biggest! Also ask about time frame of treatment. I was not successful in finding a therapist who could tell me how long a child has to attend sessions to create permanent results?

There are also numerous companies that offer lots of different materials to use in treating the issue, like weighted vests and cocoon swings. And if you are curious to learn more, "The Out-of-Sync Child" by Carol Stock Kranowitz is a great resource.

Click here to leave sensory processing disorder and return to the home page.