What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing is the ability to take in sensory information from the world around us and interpret this information effectively so that we may function optimally throughout the day. The brain not only processes information through the senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and sound, but the nervous system also interprets this sensory information and translates it into movement, body position and pressure. Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) occurs when the nervous system has difficulty regulating, processing, and interpreting information from one or more of the senses. This may affect one’s ability to function optimally in all environments, and these difficulties can adversely affect a child’s social skills, academic performance, and motor development.


What are some symptoms of sensory processing disorder?

Different children perceive and process sensory information differently. Some children find loud noises scary, while others like to bang objects and search for interesting ways to create noise. Similarly, some children may only tolerate certain fabrics or textures for clothing, while others may enjoy rolling around in grass, sand, or on the carpet. All children and adults have different sensory preferences, and while most adults have learned to adapt to their specific needs, some children need guidance in processing sensory information to reach their full potential.

Some symptoms of the disorder include:

  • Inability to focus on an activity if there’s background noiseDownload Your SPD Checklist
  • Jumping from one activity to another, never fully being ableto complete a task
  • Responding negatively to loud noises, or often covering ears
  • Seeking high movement activities, but often appearing clumsy
  • Showing a strong preference for certain foods or smells
  • Irritation from shoes, socks, tags, or different textures
  • Difficulties learning new activities
  • Under or over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds
  • Tendency to be easily distracted
  • Social and/or emotional problems
  • Unusually high or low activity level
  • Poor coordination
  • Physical clumsiness or apparent carelessness
  • Poor fine motor coordination
  • Impulsivity, lack of self-control
  • Difficulty in making transitions
  • Inability to unwind or calm self
  • Emotionally reactive
  • Poor self concept
  • Delays in speech, language, motor skills
  • Delays in daily skill performance (dressing, feeding)
  • Delays in academic achievement

How does sensory integration progress?

The normal process of sensory integration begins at birth and continues for years. For most children, sensory integration occurs automatically, with the majority of development before teenage years. However, for some children this process takes extra effort and the nervous system is ineffective in interpreting sensory input, resulting in delays of gross and fine motor skills, behavioral or emotional difficulties and problems with learning.

How can I help treat my child’s disorder?

With effective treatment provided by an occupational therapist, a child’s nervous system can develop the ability to process sensory information in an appropriate manner. A child with poor sensory integration skills may need to learn specific compensatory strategies to function optimally and integrate sensory input in an efficient manner.

Our Approach at North Shore Pediatric Therapy

At North Shore Pediatric Therapy, we tailor our therapy to meet the needs of each individual child. Our therapists are specially trained to provide your child with vital sensory input and experiences needed to meet the needs of his nervous system. Children with sensory processing disorder require individualized treatment plans adapted to motivate and empower them to reach their full potentials, with the proper balance of arousal, calming and organizing activities.