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What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Oct 01st, 2023 | by Zeena Cader

Zeena Cader

October 01st, 2023

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a neurological condition affecting how the brain processes sensory information like sound, touch, movement, and taste. It can cause individuals to experience sensory input either more intensely or less intensely than others, impacting their ability to interact in various environments and carry out daily activities. There are three primary components of sensory integration dysfunction:

  • Sensory modulation disorder affects the ability to regulate and appropriately respond to sensory input, matching behaviors with the nature and intensity of the sensory information.
  • Sensory-based motor disorder influences stability, movement, and motor planning in response to sensory stimuli.
  • Sensory discrimination disorder pertains to difficulties in accurately perceiving and distinguishing between different sensations.

These components collectively contribute to the challenges individuals with sensory processing disorder may face in navigating their surroundings and engaging in everyday tasks.

What is the Cause of Sensory Processing Disorder?

The cause of SPD is not fully understood, but it is likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Potential contributors to SPD include genetic predisposition, neurological differences, premature birth or developmental delays, and environmental factors such as exposure to toxins or stress during pregnancy. It’s important to note that sensory processing difficulties vary widely among individuals and often co-occur with other developmental disorders like autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or developmental coordination disorder (DCD), complicating understanding of its causes.

What Are Some Challenges Children with Sensory Processing Disorder May Face?

  • Overwhelmed by loud noises or bright lights
  • Avoidance of certain textures, such as tags in clothing or certain foods
  • Difficulty maintaining attention and focus, especially in busy or stimulating environments
  • Sensitivity to touch, leading to discomfort with hugs or gentle touches
  • Challenges with fine motor skills, such as handwriting or tying shoelaces
  • Difficulty regulating emotions, leading to meltdowns or tantrums in response to sensory overload
  • Impaired balance and coordination, affecting activities like riding a bike or playing sports
  • Trouble with transitions between activities or changes in routine
  • Hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to movement, such as being uncomfortable with swings or seeking out spinning or rocking movements for self-soothing

What Are Some Treatment Options for Sensory Processing Disorder?

There is currently no cure for SPD, but early intervention and collaboration with a multidisciplinary team can help children reach their fullest potential.

  • Occupational Therapy: Focuses on enhancing fine motor skills, daily activities, sensory integration, and promoting independence in self-care tasks.
  • Speech and Language Therapy: Improves communication skills, including speech clarity, language development, and social communication abilities.
  • Physiotherapy: Helps improve gross motor skills, muscle strength, coordination, and balance.
  • Behavioural Interventions: Addresses behavioral challenges, anxiety management, social skills development, and overall behavior and emotional well-being.
  • Educational Support: Provides special education services, individualized education plans (IEPs), and academic support tailored to the child’s needs.
  • Medical Monitoring: Regular follow-ups and monitoring by healthcare professionals for managing health concerns, growth and development, and addressing any medical issues.

About the Author

Zeena’s passion for working with children with disabilities stemmed from her early exposure to her older brother, who lives with cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability. Accompanying him to therapy sessions inspired her to pursue a career as an occupational therapist. Outside of NAPA Centre, she enjoys exploring new food spots, traveling to new places, and spending quality time with her family and friends.

About NAPA Centre 

NAPA paediatric therapists address areas of Global Developmental Delay through physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Learn more.

NAPA specialises in working with children with physical and neurological delays. In addition to working with children with more common diagnoses such as cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, NAPA has a special interest and expertise with children with rare, multiple and complex conditions. NAPA Centre’s Intensive Model of Therapy (IMOT) is world-renowned, and one of the leading clinics in Australia for paediatric therapy programs with a large multi-discliplinary team of Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Speech Therapists all working together. Families routinely travel from all parts of Sydney, the NSW region, from across Australia and even from the Australasian region to access NAPA’s unique and effective programs for their children.

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