What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

What is Sensory Processing?

SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) Australia definition of Sensory Processing:

The sensory system takes information from the surrounding environment through touch, smell, sound, vision, taste, movement, and gravity. 

It processes or interprets these sensations together to make sense of the environment. The process of sensory integration lays the foundation for the efficient operation of the nervous system and other parts of the body that respond to the signals sent by the nervous system. The child then responds to these sensory inputs and makes appropriate responses perform skills required.

These difficulties put children with SPD at high risk for many emotional, social, and educational problems, including the inability to make friends or be a part of a group, poor self-concept, academic failure, and being labelled clumsy, uncooperative, belligerent, disruptive, or “out of control.” Anxiety, depression, aggression, or other behaviour problems can follow. Parents may be blamed for their children’s behaviour by people who are unaware of the child’s “hidden handicap.”

Deb Hopper our clinical Director is highly skilled and trained in the field of sensory processing, through working with international experts, running a clinic and ongoing training and upskilling, Deb Hopper provides cutting-edge research and information on Sensory Processing through her workshops sand training.

Deb’s Philosophy:

‘The earlier your intervention, the better outcome for your child’

Sensory processing is how our body takes in information from our environment and processes it to make sense of it and so we can do what we need to do.

Sensory processing impacts:

  • Co-ordination and motor skills – both big movements (gross motor skills) such as running and climbing; and small movements (fine motor skills) such as handwriting, doing up buttons, fiddly crafts etc.
  • Ability to concentrate and stay on task
  • Ability to self-regulate
  • Ability to control our emotions and reactions to events
  • Ability to do things in specific environments eg dealing with noisy environments, being able to tolerate walking on sand on the beach, being able to tune out small distractions in order to concentrate.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) (formerly known as “sensory integration dysfunction”) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t integrate to provide appropriate responses, the various types of sensory information are processed by multi-sensory integration. 1

Difficulties can occur with any of the senses

  • Touch
  • Taste
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Olfactory (smell)

Other senses that may not be thought of commonly also include:

  • Muscle (proprioception)
  • Vestibular (movement)

In each of these systems, a child or adult may have different responses to different stimuli or in different environments.  These can be summarised as three main responses

  • Over sensitive (or sensory defensive)
  • Under responding (or needing more input)
  • Sensory Seeking, or sensory craving

SPD difficulties can stand on their own or as part of a diagnosis.

Recent research on brain function has shown that Sensory Processing Disorder symptoms can be linked to areas of the brain separate to diagnoses such as ADHD and autism. This is groundbreaking and very exciting research.

It is also commonly understood that children with ADHD and Autism can struggle with sensory processing strategies significantly as well.

In day to day practice we see children who have some level of difficulty in coping with sensory processing in a wide variety of settings such as preschools, schools, special education units. Many children have a diagnosis, many do not.

Many are simply struggling with concentrating in class, chewing on their shirts or struggling with behavioural symptoms such as emotional meltdowns or difficulty with self-regulation (controlling the volume of their behaviour).

Do you know if your child is suffering from Sensory Processing Disorder-