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An Overview

Sensory processing disorder is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to stimulus/information that comes in through the senses. Formerly known as sensory integration dysfunction, it is not currently recognized as a distinct medical diagnosis. Some people with sensory processing disorder are over/under sensitive to things in their environment. Common sounds may be painful or unbearable. The light touch of a shirt may irritate the skin. Kids with sensory processing disorder may be uncoordinated, bump into things, find it difficult to tell where their limbs are in space & engage in conversation or play. Sensory processing problems are usually identified in children. However they can also affect adults. Sensory processing issues are commonly seen in developmental conditions like autism spectrum disorder.

Sensory issues occur in children mostly . Many of these children are on the autism spectrum. Adults on the spectrum can also experience sensory issues.

Other conditions or disorders associated with sensory issues include:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Developmental delays are also common in people with sensory issues

Sensory processing disorder may cause issues with one sense, like hearing, touch, or taste or it may affect multiple senses. Kids can be over- or under-responsive to the things they have difficulties with.

The symptoms of sensory processing disorder exist on a spectrum.

In some children, for example, the sound of a mixer or cooker whistle may cause them to get irritated or dive under the table. They may shout/howl when touched. They may avoid the textures of certain foods.

But other kids may seem unresponsive to anything around them. They may fail to respond/react to extreme heat or cold or even pain.

Many children with sensory processing disorder may be fussy babies who become anxious as they grow old. They often don't handle change well. They may frequently throw tantrums or have meltdowns, even in public places.

Many normal children may also have symptoms like these from time to time. But therapists diagnose sensory processing disorder when the symptoms are severe enough to affect normal functioning of the kids and disrupt his/her everyday life.

SPD may manifest itself as:

  • Eating issues
  • Resistance to cuddling
  • Delay in motor skills, such as crawling, standing, walking, or running
  • Sensitivity or overreaction to stimulation, such as not liking certain noises, smells, or touches
  • Seeming to be clumsy or awkward
  • Craving for rough-housing, tackling, or wrestling games
  • Seeming overly distracted in the classroom or when learning new tasks

Sensory issues occur in kids in most cases. Many of these kids are on the autism spectrum. Adults on the spectrum can experience sensory processing disorder also.

Other conditions or disorders connected to sensory issues include:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Developmental delays are also common in children with sensory issues


Sensory integration therapy aims to help children with sensory processing issues disorder by exposing them to sensory stimulation in a structured, repetitive way. The theory behind SI is that over time, the brain will adapt and allow kids to process and react to sensations more efficiently in a balanced way.

Sensory integration (SI) therapy should be provided by a specially trained occupational therapist (OT). The OT first determines through a thorough evaluation as to how much your child would benefit from SI therapy. In traditional SI therapy, the OT exposes a child to sensory stimulation through repetitive activities.

Once the child gets settled, the therapist gradually makes activities more challenging and complex. The idea is that through repetition, the child’s nervous system will respond in a more “organized” way to sensations and movement.

Sensory Integration Therapy and Sensory Diets

Many therapists now use this type of exposure as part of a more extensive sensory diettreatment. It is an extensive plan that needs to be followed at home as well as at school in order to get optimum results. It includes not only things like balance treatments, movement therapy and structured exposure to sensory input, but also carefully designed and tailored physical activities and accommodations.

The routine of activities in a sensory diet fits your child’s exact needs and schedule. They can be done at therapy sessions and at home under your supervision. If you’re interested in SI therapy, get specifics on how sensory diets work and what an example sensory diet can look like. You can also hear an expert talk about sensory diets.

That’s why it’s key to know about other treatment options and what to do if you’re concerned your child may have sensory processing issues.


  • 5 Senses
    1. Visual sensitivity         - poor/no eye contact; peripheral vision
    2. Auditory sensitivity     - poor/no response to name; sensitive to sounds
    3. Olfactory sensitivity    - smell obsession
    4. Gustatory sensitivity   - mouthing objects; chewing difficulties
    5. Tactile sensitivity        - hair/nails cutting uncomfortable
  • Vestibular System Sensitivity (Related to body balance)
  • - Hyperactivity
  • - Running in circles; spinning wheels/objects
  • Proprioceptive System Sensitivity (Related to body positioning)        Low/poor body tone; walking on toes; stimming


  • Interoceptive System Sensitivity (Related to sensations from internal organs)
    1. - Difficulty knowing if they are hungry, full, hot, cold or thirsty
    2. - Difficulty with self-regulation/self-control

If you recently discovered your child has sensory processing issues, you can get in touch with our Child Developmental & Occupational Therapists for the same

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