What Is A Sensory Processing Disorder?

A sensory processing disorder also known as SPD can sometimes be described as a neurological "traffic jam" of the brain.

It is when there is a dysfunction in how we respond to the different sensory experiences we encounter throughout the day such as taste, touch, sound and movement. 

For example, if you're listening to a story, eating lunch or drawing a picture, your completion of that particular task requires both processing sensation and sensory feedback. 

There is no one size fits all when it comes to a sensory processing disorder, children with sensory processing issues respond to their environments in different ways. Children can be hyper-sensitive while others can be hypo-sensitive.

What are the symptoms of hyper-sensitive SPD?

Children who are hypersensitive may overreact to sounds, feelings and other experiences that make them feel uncomfortable such as high-pitched or loud noises or they may become distracted by background noises other people don't seem to hear.

Other hypersensitivities include avoiding hugs, fearful of crowds, poor balance and certain clothes or tags may irritate their skin.

Horse and girl in a field
Hippotherapy has been used to treat patients with developmental delays, language and sensory processing disorders, autism, cerebral palsy,

What are the symptoms of hypo-sensitive SPD?

While those with hypo-sensitive sensory processing issues may not have spatial awareness and have a constant need to touch people and textures even when it is inappropriate to do so.

Children with hyposensitivity to sensory input are often referred to as sensory seekers and often seek out "thrilling" activities that can sometimes be dangerous.

They tend to be very fidgety, enjoy keeping active and frequently attempt to engage in rough play. Other behaviours include seeking dirty play, rummaging aimlessly through toy boxes, they may even lick or taste inedible objects and enjoy hot or spicy foods. 

If my child has SPD does it mean they have autism?

A high percentage of children with autism have sensory problems and children with other conditions such as Down Syndrome may present with sensory issues but a sensory processing disorder can be a stand-alone issue. 

What is a sensory diet?

A sensory processing disorder is a lifelong condition but it can be managed through treatments such as occupational therapy or with a sensory diet in an effort to maximise each child's full potential. 

Sensory diets have nothing to do with food - they are personalised physical activity plans carefully designed by therapists and are tailored to meet a child's individual needs.

A sensory diet helps to provide the sensory input a child needs to stay organised and focused throughout the day. 

What happens if SPD is left untreated?

Behavioural problems, motor clumsiness, depression and anxiety alongside many other impacts may result if the disorder is left untreated.

Kellie Kearney

Kellie Kearney is a Dublin mammy of five kids aged newborn right up to nine. She loves coffee, cloth nappies, travel and sharing her every day true to life family moments on Instagram.

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