What is Sensory Processing Disorder

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“What is sensory processing disorder?” – simply put, it is misinterpretation of either sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste that negatively impacts a person’s daily function

A more complex definition of “what is sensory processing disorder?”; it’s a condition that affects the way the five senses send messages to a child’s nervous system. As a result, the child will exhibit motor and behavioral responses not considered fitting for the situation.

SPD is a neurological condition that creates a roadblock between sensory information and parts of the brain needed to interpret that information. Since all five senses work together in unison the child may overreact (or underreact) to all of them, or just a few, or sometimes just one.   A child may also misunderstand the properties of an object or experience causing them to participate in a less than optimal way.

This condition creates difficulties with completing everyday tasks due to the inability for the child to process and appropriately react to information received from the senses.

If you came here searching for “what is sensory processing disorder?”, see if your child exhibits any of the following symptoms:

  • Behavior problems
  • Frequent tantrums and overreactions to things others do not seem to react to
  • Difficulty making or keeping friends
  • Poor coordination
  • Hard time participating in sports
  • Difficulty with clothes, hair brushing, teeth brushing, eating
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Poor performance in school

When asking “what is sensory processing disorder?”, some parents are relieved to know it’s more common than they may think. According to this study, approximately 1 in 20 children are afflicted with SPD. With that statistic you can be assured that your child is far from the only one in school with SPD.

Even children without SPD may have difficulties with sensory processing that are significant enough to impact their everyday life. According to another study, approximately 1 in 6 children experience difficulties with sensory processing.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder: The Signs and Symptoms

Just like most disorders, SPD ranges in severity. While one child with SPD may overreact to certain sounds or touching certain objects, another child with SPD may be able to do those things just fine. It affects all children in different ways.

SPD is most commonly detected and treated during childhood. However, children who go undiagnosed or untreated may see the condition follow them into adulthood.

Adults with SPD will experience difficulties performing tasks and work and it may affect their ability to maintain close relationships with their peers. An adult struggling with SPD their whole life may go through hardships such as depression, under-achieving at work, and loneliness due to social isolation.

When SPD is diagnosed it can then be addressed with a treatment program consisting of occupational therapy and sensory integration. Parents are strongly encouraged to take an active role during the child’s treatment, which will then help them learn more about the challenges their child has with processing sensory information.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder: The Causes of SPD

While the causes of SPD are still undergoing extensive research, preliminary studies from the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation suggest that it may be hereditary. If that is truly the case, then SPD may be a genetic condition. Environmental factors are likely to be involved as well.

Learn more about sensory processing here in our comprehensive 1 hour video.

Learn more about ways to treat SPD in a relationship-based model by registering for DIR-FCD™ Certificate Level 1 in Social and Emotional Development. Learn more here /training-programs/basic-course/