Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
Every moment each of our senses send a continuous flow of information to the brain about our bodies and our environment. “Sensory processing” is a term used to describe how the brain manages and makes sense of all of this sensory information. During sensory processing the brain takes in, filters, interprets, organizes, and uses information from the senses. In doing this, sensory processing lays the foundation for us to feel comfortable, attentive, and emotionally regulated throughout the day, as well as to develop the skills needed to perform necessary tasks during the day. The senses include touch, hearing, sight, smell, and taste, in addition to two other less known movement senses: the proprioceptive sense (body information) and the vestibular sense (movement information).
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) occurs when there is a “glitch” in sensory processing, with problems in understanding, filtering, responding to, and/or using sensory information. Although SPD is an often unrecognized condition, it is estimated to occur in 1 in 20 children in this country. SPD may be present from infancy through adulthood. Occupational therapy is an effective intervention for sensory processing and sensori-motor related difficulties at all ages.
Signs of Sensory Processing and Sensori-Motor Problems
Below is a sampling of some of the symptoms that children with sensory processing and sensori-motor difficulties may display. If there are concerns in any of these areas, an occupational therapy evaluation may be useful. If you would like to view a list of signs and symptoms more relevant to adults and teens, view a symptom list here.
• Overly sensitive to touch experiences (clothing, bathing, hair care, nail cutting, hugs)
• Bothered or distracted by everyday sounds
• Sensory overload; overstimulated by environmental input
• Difficulty regulating emotions or behavior (emotional blow-ups, difficulty calming, etc.)
• Fearful or anxious with heights, swings, playground equipment, movement, unstable surfaces, or open stairs
• Seeks excessive movement (jumping, spinning, swinging, bouncing, fidgeting, in and out of chair, “daredevil”)
• Balance issues, fall out of chairs, trip easily
• Clumsy, uncoordinated, or accident-prone
• Uses too much or too little force for activities (plays or interacts roughly, drops or spills items, slams doors)
• Difficulty in school; difficulty with handwriting, pencil grasp, or scissors use
• Takes longer to learn new motor tasks (bike riding, pumping swing, sports, dances)
• Difficulty falling or remaining asleep
• Difficulty remaining seated in chair (slumps, in/out of chair, sitting on feet, feet twisted around chair legs)
• Loses place while reading, reverses letters or numbers, makes errors when copying from black board to paper
• Difficulty learning right and left
• Head banging