Definition

What is sensory processing disorder?

Sensory processing disorder, formerly referred to as sensory integration dysfunction, is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. It is not currently recognized a distinct medical diagnosis. However, it is an umbrella term that describe many other conditions.

Some people with sensory processing disorder are oversensitive to things in their environment. Common sounds may be painful or overwhelming. The light touch of a shirt may chafe the skin. Others with sensory processing disorder may:

  • Be uncoordinated
  • Bump into things
  • Be unable to tell where their limbs are in space
  • Be hard to engage in conversation or play

Sensory processing problems are usually identified in children. But they can also affect adults. Sensory processing problems are commonly seen in developmental conditions like autism spectrum disorder.

Sensory processing disorder is not recognized as a stand-alone disorder. But many experts think that should change.

How common is sensory processing disorder?

Sensory processing disorder is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of sensory processing disorder?

Sensory processing disorder may affect one sense, like hearing, touch, or taste. Or it may affect multiple senses. And people can be over- or under-responsive to the things they have difficulties with.

Like many illnesses, the symptoms of sensory processing disorder exist on a spectrum. In some children, for example, the sound of a leaf blower outside the window may cause them to vomit or dive under the table. They may scream when touched. They may recoil from the textures of certain foods. But others seem unresponsive to anything around them. They may fail to respond to extreme heat or cold or even pain.

Many children with sensory processing disorder start out as fussy babies who become anxious as they grow older. These kids often don’t handle change well. They may frequently throw tantrums or have meltdowns. Many children have symptoms like these from time to time. But therapists consider a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder when the symptoms become severe enough to affect normal functioning and disrupt everyday life.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes sensory processing disorder?

The exact cause of sensory processing problems has not been identified. But a 2006 study of twins found that hypersensitivity to light and sound may have a strong genetic component.

Other experiments have shown that children with sensory processing problems have abnormal brain activity when they are simultaneously exposed to light and sound.

Still other experiments have shown that children with sensory processing problems will continue to respond strongly to a stroke on the hand or a loud sound, while other children quickly get used to the sensations.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for sensory processing disorder?

There are many risk factors for Sensory Processing Disorder, such as:

  • maternal deprivation,
  • premature birth,
  • prenatal malnutrition
  • early institutional care

SPD is higher among children who were adopted from orphanages and among those with repeated ear infections before age 2.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

 

How is sensory processing disorder diagnosed?

Sensory processing disorder isn’t a recognized medical diagnosis at this time.

How is sensory processing disorder treated?

Despite the lack of widely accepted diagnostic criteria, occupational therapists commonly see and treat children and adults with sensory processing problems.

Treatment depends on a child’s individual needs. But in general, it involves helping children do better at activities they’re normally not good at and helping them get used to things they can’t tolerate.

Treatment for sensory processing problems is called sensory integration. The goal of sensory integration is to challenge a child in a fun, playful way so he or she can learn to respond appropriately and function more normally.

The sessions are tailored to the child’s needs. For instance, if the child tends to under-react to touch and sound, the parent needs to be very energetic during the second phase of the play sessions. If the child tends to overreact to touch and sound, the parent will need to be more soothing. These interactions will help the child move forward and, DIR therapists believe, help with sensory issues as well.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage sensory processing disorder?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with sensory processing disorder:

  • Diet recommendations for children with ADHD, ADD or Sensory Integration: Remove all sugar from the diet
  • Create a quiet study area
  • Allow more time for tasks
  • Teach them to recognize and separate incoming messages

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: April 14, 2017 | Last Modified: April 14, 2017

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