Sensory Processing Disorder is a neurological disorder causing difficulties with understanding information from our senses. Our senses work together to help us understand ourselves, and maneuver effectively in our environment. Think about it, everything we know about the world and ourselves has come through our senses. Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition that causes a person’s body to misinterpret sensory information they receive from the environment. So these people aren’t able to respond “appropriately” to ordinary sensory experiences.
In order to better understand Sensory Processing Disorder , we need to understand the purpose of our senses. Our senses allow us to experience and respond to our environment. To experience a sunset we look at it. If we smell smoke we respond by getting out of the building. When our senses are working properly together they protect us and allow us to enjoy our surroundings. The five senses most of us are familiar with are:
Vision -visual perception
Hearing - auditory perception
Touch - tactile perception
Smell – olfactory perception
Taste – oral perception
Two senses we may not be familiar with are:
These seven senses work together to help us understand and maneuver within our environment. For example to open a door:
We look at it- visual perception.
We place our hand on the doorknob- visual and tactile perception.
We squeeze the doorknob (not to hard or to soft) and turn it- tactile, proprioceptive perception.
We pull open the door (not to hard or to soft) – vestibular, proprioceptive, visual, and tactile perception.
(If the door has a squeaky hinge we hear that as we are opening it – auditory perception.)
We walk through the doorway, stepping over the door jam- visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive perception.
Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition that causes a person’s body to misinterpret sensory information they receive from the environment. One or more of a person’s senses may be over or under reactive to sensory information.
Unusual responses to touch and movement suggest SPD. Extreme over or under reaction to ordinary sensations also suggest SPD. It's important to look at the degree, intensity, and quality of the child’s responses to sensory stimulation. If a child's response doesn't match the environmental demand something is wrong. When children avoid ordinary stimulation or seek excessive stimulation, or when they can’t make their body respond the way they want it to, they are at risk.
The way Sensory Processing Disorder looks for each child is different. One child may be hyper sensitive to sound and scream every time mom turns on the vaccume, yet this same child could be oblivious to touch sensation, they could fall down scrape their knee and not even react.
If you suspect your child may have sensory processing disorder it is essential that you have them evaluated by an Occupational Therapist trained in sensory processing disorder. They will help you to start Sensory Integration Therapy.
A close working relationship with an occupational therapist (OT) is essential to administering an effective program. A child’s therapist will have good ideas for adapting an activity or challenging a child appropriately. They will be aware of behaviors and signals to watch for with a child. They can evaluate progress and give suggestions to keep a child progressing.
For a comprehensive questionnaire on SPD:
To find a knowledgeable Occupational Therapist contact the American Occupational Therapist Association:
Proprioceptive Sense: Sensory information we receive from our muscles, joints and body parts. Close your eyes and raise your hand in the air. You know where your hand is even though you are not looking at it because the muscles and joints in your hand and arm are sending information to your brain telling it the position of your hand.
Vestibular Sense: Sensory information we receive from our middle ear that is related to movement, balance and our change in head position. The vestibular sense tells us whether we are sitting, standing, kneeling, jumping, running, etc.
As a child did you ever spin yourself in circles and then try to walk straight? You couldn’t walk straight because your body was receiving impaired vestibular information.