Imagine if your mother’s touch felt like being raked by sandpaper or the sounds of a vacuum felt like an explosion in your head — this is part of the daily experience of millions of children with sensory processing disorders.
Sensory processing (sometimes called “sensory integration” or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or “sensory integration.”
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as “sensory integration dysfunction”) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), formerly referred to as Sensory Integration Disorder, affects approximately 5% of the school age population.
Source: SPD Foundation
Follow this link to the SPD Foundation’s symptom checklist to see if your child is showing signs of SPD and might benefit from further evaluation by a developmental pediatrician or an occupational therapist.
Types of SPD
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) currently includes three primary diagnostic groups:
Type I – Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD). Over, or under responding to sensory stimuli or seeking sensory stimulation. This group may include a fearful and/or anxious pattern, negative and/or stubborn behaviors, self-absorbed behaviors that are difficult to engage or creative or actively seeking sensation.
Type II – Sensory Based Motor Disorder (SBMD). Shows motor output that is disorganized as a result of incorrect processing of sensory information affecting postural control challenges and/or dyspraxia.
Type III – Sensory Discrimination Disorder (SDD). Sensory discrimination or incorrect processing of sensory information. Incorrect processing of visual or auditory input, for example, may be seen in inattentiveness, disorganization, and poor school performance.
This information is adapted from research and publications by: Lucy, J. Miller, Ph.D., OTR, Marie Anzalone, Sc.D., OTR, Sharon A. Cermak, Ed.D., OTR/L, Shelly J. ,Lane, Ph.D, OTR, Beth Osten, M.S,m OTR/L, Serena Wieder, Ph.D., Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D.