Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD is a complex neurological condition where the brain and nervous system misinterpret everyday sensory experiences (eg. taste, smell, movement etc) and can’t effectively process the information they receive from the senses.
People with SPD can be classed into two main groups:
They have extreme sensitivity to certain sensations and actively avoid them. Some of the signs of Hypersensitive SPD are:
– Doesn’t like to be touched or hugged
– Hates being dirty and avoids anything messy
– Feels extreme pain when hair is brushed or washed
– Struggles with the feeling of some clothing, especially new with tags
– Has limited diet due not being able to cope with textures of food and may gag a lot
– Afraid of movement / fast activities and hates being picked up or spun around
– Hates bathing and water touching certain parts of their body
– Has strong, distressed reactions to smells and sounds
They are under reactive to sensory stimuli and actively seek out certain sensations. Some of the signs of Hyposensitive SPD are:
– Always moving and has trouble sitting still for an activity
– Constantly runs, jumps, skips, stomps instead of walking
– Is very ‘clumsy’ and is constantly tripping or knocking things over
– Has poor gross motor skills, co-ordination and balance
– Is very under reactive to pain and often won’t notice they are hurt
– Loves movement and is constantly spinning, jumping, crashing into things
– Craves deep pressure
– Constantly touching everything and everyone
– Has trouble following a set of instructions
Once children with SPD have been accurately diagnosed by a professional they can hugely benefit from a treatment program designed especially for them by a qualified Occupational Therapist (OT).
The OT will make a thorough assessment of the child and often will write up a ‘Sensory Diet’ which is a list of activities and processes they can use to help their bodies self-regulate. Over time the therapy sessions will help the child learn how to respond appropriately to sensations as well as educate parents, teachers and carers on how to help them cater to their sensory needs.