Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support

 What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?


What is SPD?




Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a brain based problem that affects approximately five percent of school age children. One subtype of SPD is Sensory Over Responsivity (SOR). SOR kids respond to sensory information (i.e. sound and touch) as though it were extremely aversive. They feel continually bombarded by stimuli. The resulting physiologic over-arousal and emotional dysregulation negatively impact the child’s daily functioning. Patterns of instable moods are typical and SPD children find even pleasurable activities difficult, or unbearable.

Awareness of SPD is very low. Children are frequently misdiagnosed and prescribed inappropriate treatment plans. The results can be devastating. Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) exacerbates a person's reaction to sensory stimuli. A person suffering from sensory processing disorder might feel pain, for instance, when something touches his skin, or react violently at certain visual symbols. This disorder is treatable.


Sensory processing disorder is when a person has troubles processing sensory input, and this can lead to individuals having issues with moods and behaviours. If one has SPD they will feel overwhelmed by what appears to be normal amounts of sensory input for example like normal noise, light, taste or touch to others. If you know someone who has sensory processing problems it is important to be supportive. There are ways to recognize sensory triggers but you need to find the right treatments, equitment and tools to help provide them with a happier life. This is called a "sensory diet"

When a child is overwhelmed by sensory input their reactions may be:

Fight - anger, irritability, tantrums and rage

Flight - panic, running away isolation or withdrawn

Freeze - where a child is frustrated and overwhelmed that the child can not speak or move

Today I am so sensitive to be touched. It's like this everyday. I don't like to be hugged. Sometimes my Mom has to remove the tags off of my shirts. I can't wear socks or underwear. Today I don't want to brush my teeth or have a shower. I'm sensitive when I hear things and the louder it gets, the more it hurts me. It makes me want to cry and sometimes I will have tantrums not because I want too but I lose control, it's just too much. I always have a melt down because my food hurts my mouth, I cant eat very much. I yell a lot because I dont like how these things make me feel. I cant sit still. When i'm at school I can't do the same work as my friends. I dont have many friends, just two. Sometimes they play with me at recess, sometimes they dont. I am agressive. When the lights get too bright. I yell at my Mom to turn off the lights. It hurts my eyes. I sometime hit my Mom or i'll break her things even though I don't want too. Sound familliar yet?

When a diagnosis of autism, ADHD, SPD and or any learning disability begins, what may be concidered an absolute
rollar coaster ride like experience. It is a long road filled with sadness, frustration, joy and love. Through
which each and every member in the family will experience a huge ammount of personal growth and understanding.

As a parent/caregiver of a child with physical, mental and emotional special needs, you will come to the point where
special services are the most important to your family support. You need to have consultations to set up a specialised
plan for your child, the family and your own individual needs.

•In-home behavioral training
•A diet plan
•Natural products and medicines
•Finding specialized family doctors, Pediatrician, EA's, OT's and therapists
•Overall view of gut function for ASD children and all other allergies, intolerances and sensitivities
•Trained Babysitters and in/out of home services
•Learn where to shop for special foods and products
•Connect yourself to SPD support groups
•Become familiar with sensory Play ideas
•Educate yourself and others about SPD (family, playfriends, teachers, ect.)
•Up to date technological support
•And other services and supports unique to each families needs

This is to support parents/caregivers/Professionals and is offered to families of children with a wide range of special
needs that include

•Aspberger's Syndrome/PTSD
•Learning Disorders/ADD
•Children dealing with emotional trauma
•Behavioral challenges

Access all the community resources that you can! It will help guide you further along your path!

 Tantrum VS Meltdown
Ages 1-5 years

"want" directed
Goal Control driven
Audience to perform
Checks engagement
Protective mechanisms
Resolves if goal is accomplished

Reactive Mechanisms
Continues without attention
Safety may be comprimised
Not goal dependant
May require assistance to gain control

 Causes of Stress (to meltdown)


>Social Skills Deficits

>Excessive Demands

>Interrupted Steretype

>Situations that are
-New Or Unfamilliar

>Changes to
-The Expected
(even minor changes can cause extreme stress



Dr. A. Jean Ayres is generally credited with developing both a theory of sensory integration dysfunction and therapeutic interventions for children suffering from it. Although sensory integration involves all of our senses, because teachers are more familiar with vision, hearing, smell, and taste, we will focus on the aspects of sensory integration that may not be as familiar: vestibular and proprioceptive. We will also focus on tactile because so many children seem to have tactile defensiveness:


Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder  in children may include:

  • Overly sensitive to touch, movement, sights
  • Inability to habituate to sounds and fear with unexpected noises
  • Easily distracted
  • Holding hands over ears in complex environment
  • Avoids tastes, smells, or textures normally tolerated by children that age
  • Activity level that is unusually high or unusually low
  • Impulsive, lacking in self-control
  • Inability to unwind or calm self
  • Poor self-concept
  • Social and/or emotional problems
  • Physical clumsiness or apparent carelessness
  • Hesitation going up or down stairs
  • Difficulty making transitions from one situation to another
  • Holding on to walls, furniture, people, or objects, even in familiar settings
  • Delays in speech, language, or motor skills
  • Delays in academic achievement
  • Seeks out movement activities, but poor endurance and tires quickly

Genetics: SPD appears to have a genetic component as other family members often show sensory processing problems.
Trauma: SPD often appears in response to Prenatal insult from drugs, illness, and maternal stress, Birth complications, such as
asphyxia, post-birth trauma, or prematurity , Head trauma , Physical, sexual, or psychological abuse , Chemical abuse , Post-traumatic
stress disorder

Allergies: Virtually all people with sensory processing problems appear to suffer allergies and food sensitivities, linking the two.

Toxins: Exposure to environmental toxins, such as air contaminants, destructive viruses, and other chemicals often cause oversensitivity

It matters to me what your child's individual needs may be, my mission is to post links, helpful information, photos,
raise SPD Awareness, ask questions build a SPD community and help each other come to a better understanding of what's going on in our children's lives and or own.

I will be posting links and information about behavioral and social modification techniques, sensory tools/equitment and
visual/auditory/tactile approaches to lessen your childs frustration, build there self confidence and make them feel
good about themselves.

When raising a child with SPD, always look for there natural gifts and talents to encourage them to grow
in the right direction, setting goals giving them a better future. Your child may need some of the following

•One-on-one teaching, or small groups depending on the need of the child
•Learning with other professionals, such as SLT, OT, and educators
•Liaising closely with parents and guardians
•Assessment of Basic Learning and Language Skills
•Applied Behavioral Analysis
•Constant verbal rewards and reinforcers
•Picture Exchange Communication System
•Sign Language
•Sensory Play/A pet (puppy)
•Teaching through senses
•Prepared lessons and resources
•Use of conventional teaching methods to meet the individual needs of the child.






 The main kind of treatment is occupational therapy that is focused on sensory integration and development. This is what is
called a sensory diet. Maybe your child is prescribed a prescription, or methods to calm down and collect there senses. Activities and items are chosen by the therapist and designed to be fun, enjoyable and encouraging to the child and meet there special needs. They may include listening to music or going to yoga, beach or nature walks. The activities can not be random or sudden the way life is for most. Trips, outings and events should all be planned so your child understands the plan and rules ahead of schedule and is prepared.

Types of sensory input include:

Visual or vision input: What you see

Auditory or sound input: What you hear

Tactile or touch input: What you feel through touching, or through your skin, etc.

Olfactory input : What you smell

Gustatory input: What you taste, such as when you eat or drink

Vestibular or movement input: What you feel when you are moving, such as your arms, legs or your body



If your child begins to see an occupational therapist and has sensory Processing Disorder therapy, you will see an improvement in all the areas of functioning: their attention/focus, concentration, socialization and even their self-esteem. They start to get involved more fully at home and at school. This usually takes between six months to a year.

What can you do if you think your child has SPD?

You should begin by taking your child to see your family doctor or get a referral to see a paediatrician to make sure that there are no other medical problems to cause concern. The doctor can rule out any other medical problems. Keeping in mind that many doctors may not know about sensory processing problems and what Sensory processing Disorder is.

Have your child evaluated by an Occupational Therapist (OT), the OT will meet with you and your child. This appointment usually is to get to know your child and have a better understanding of the child's situation. The OT may request a sensory history from birth, developmental history from birth, there symptoms/functioning levels, and the OT may also ask you to fill out a variety of parent reports and surveys related to the functional impact of sensory processing difficulties and the level of SPD severity. The child may also be evaluated using a very standardized assessment, and reactions to sensory input and coordination and motor abilities will be monitored closely.



There are many areas where a child may have sensory defensiveness. One area our son has this with is running water. My son is a fish in water he loves it!! But, if he even hears a shower his screams rip you down to the core. We have been told by our OT that this running water feels like pins and needles on his delicate skin. Because of the feeling they can become aggressive and have an explosion of emotions because of this bombardment of sensory stimuli.
One way our family is learning to cope and deal with this is brushing. We use the Wilbarger Method. We end each brushing session with joint compressions. My son is still terrified of a shower but is recovering sooner and faster.
Thank goodness we have a tub. Sara Spoors Lundquist :)

Myth: “The child is just pretending to get out of eating a food he doesn’t like or doing something he doesn’t want to do.”

Reality: This is not a dysfunction the child can control. As a child learns how to integrate his senses properly, he will be relieved

and probably delighted to try different foods.


Sensory processing (sometimes called "sensory integration" or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or "sensory integration."

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.

One study (Ahn, Miller, Milberger, McIntosh, 2004) shows that at least 1 in 20 children’s daily lives is affected by SPD. Another research study by the Sensory Processing Disorder Scientific Work Group (Ben-Sasson, Carter, Briggs-Gowen, 2009) suggests that 1 in every 6 children experiences sensory symptoms that may be significant enough to affect aspects of everyday life functions. Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder, like those of most disorders, occur within a broad spectrum of severity. While most of us have occasional difficulties processing sensory information, for children and adults with SPD, these difficulties are chronic, and they disrupt everyday life.What Sensory Processing Disorder looks like

Sensory Processing Disorder can affect people in only one sense–for example, just touch or just sight or just movement–or in multiple senses. One person with SPD may over-respond to sensation and find clothing, physical contact, light, sound, food, or other sensory input to be unbearable. Another might under-respond and show little or no reaction to stimulation, even pain or extreme hot and cold. In children whose sensory processing of messages from the muscles and joints is impaired, posture and motor skills can be affected. These are the "floppy babies" who worry new parents and the kids who get called "klutz" and "spaz" on the playground. Still other children exhibit an appetite for sensation that is in perpetual overdrive. These kids often are misdiagnosed - and inappropriately medicated - for ADHD.

Sensory Processing Disorder is most commonly diagnosed in children, but people who reach adulthood without treatment also experience symptoms and continue to be affected by their inability to accurately and appropriately interpret sensory messages.

These "sensational adults" may have difficulty performing routines and activities involved in work, close relationships, and recreation. Because adults with SPD have struggled for most of their lives, they may also experience depression, underachievement, social isolation, and/or other secondary effects.

Sadly, misdiagnosis is common because many health care professionals are not trained to recognize sensory issues. The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation is dedicated to researching these issues, educating the public and professionals about their symptoms and treatment, and advocating for those who live with Sensory Processing Disorder and sensory challenges associated with other conditions.

What causes Sensory Processing Disorder is a pressing question for every parent of a child with SPD. Many worry that they are somehow to blame for their child's sensory issues.

"Is it something I did?" parents want to know.

The causes of SPD are among the subjects that researchers at Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation and their collaborators elsewhere have been studying. Preliminary research suggests that SPD is often inherited. If so, the causes of SPD are coded into the child's genetic material. Prenatal and birth complications have also been implicated, and environmental factors may be involved.

Of course, as with any developmental and/or behavioral disorder, the causes of SPD are likely to be the result of factors that are both genetic and environmental. Only with more research will it be possible to identify the role of each.

Emotional and other impacts of Sensory Processing Disorder

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder often have problems with motor skills and other abilities needed for school success and childhood accomplishments. As a result, they often become socially isolated and suffer from low self-esteem and other social/emotional issues.

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 labeled clumsy, uncooperative, belligerent, disruptive, or "out of control." Anxiety, depression, aggression, or other behavior problems can follow. Parents may be blamed for their children's behavior by people who are unaware of the child's "hidden handicap."

Effective treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder is available, but far too many children with sensory symptoms are misdiagnosed and not properly treated. Untreated SPD that persists into adulthood can affect an individual's ability to succeed in marriage, work, and social environments.

How Sensory Processing Disorder is treated

Most children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) are just as intelligent as their peers. Many are intellectually gifted. Their brains are simply wired differently. They need to be taught in ways that are adapted to how they process information, and they need leisure activities that suit their own sensory processing needs.

Once children with Sensory Processing Disorder have been accurately diagnosed, they benefit from a treatment program of occupational therapy (OT) with a sensory integration (SI) approach. When appropriate and applied by a well-trained clinician, listening therapy (such as Integrated Listening Systems) or other complementary therapies may be combined effectively with OT-SI.

Occupational therapy with a sensory integration approach typically takes place in a sensory-rich environment sometimes called the "OT gym." During OT sessions, the therapist guides the child through fun activities that are subtly structured so the child is constantly challenged but always successful.

The goal of Occupational Therapy is to foster appropriate responses to sensation in an active, meaningful, and fun way so the child is able to behave in a more functional manner. Over time, the appropriate responses generalize to the environment beyond the clinic including home, school, and the larger community. Effective occupational therapy thus enables children with SPD to take part in the normal activities of childhood, such as playing with friends, enjoying school, eating, dressing, and sleeping.

Ideally, occupational therapy for SPD is family-centered. Parents are involved and work with the therapist to learn more about their child's sensory challenges and methods for engaging in therapeutic activities (sometimes called a "sensory diet)" at home and elsewhere. The child's therapist may provide ideas to teachers and others outside the family who interact regularly with the child. Families have the opportunity to communicate their own priorities for treatment.

Treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder helps parents and others who live and work with sensational children to understand that Sensory Processing Disorder is real, even though it is "hidden." With this assurance, they become better advocates for their child at school and within the community.



Signs Of Tactile Dysfunction:

1. Hypersensitivity To Touch (Tactile Defensiveness)

__ becomes fearful, anxious or aggressive with light or unexpected touch

__ as an infant, did/does not like to be held or cuddled; may arch back, cry, and pull away

__ distressed when diaper is being, or needs to be, changed

__ appears fearful of, or avoids standing in close proximity to other people or peers (especially in lines)

__ becomes frightened when touched from behind or by someone/something they can not see (such as under a blanket)

__ complains about having hair brushed; may be very picky about using a particular brush

__ bothered by rough bed sheets (i.e., if old and "bumpy")

__ avoids group situations for fear of the unexpected touch

__ resists friendly or affectionate touch from anyone besides parents or siblings (and sometimes them too!)

__ dislikes kisses, will "wipe off" place where kissed

__ prefers hugs

__ a raindrop, water from the shower, or wind blowing on the skin may feel like torture and produce adverse and avoidance reactions

__ may overreact to minor cuts, scrapes, and or bug bites

__ avoids touching certain textures of material (blankets, rugs, stuffed animals)

__ refuses to wear new or stiff clothes, clothes with rough textures, turtlenecks, jeans, hats, or belts, etc.

__ avoids using hands for play

__ avoids/dislikes/aversive to "messy play", i.e., sand, mud, water, glue, glitter, playdoh, slime, shaving cream/funny foam etc.

__ will be distressed by dirty hands and want to wipe or wash them frequently

__ excessively ticklish

__ distressed by seams in socks and may refuse to wear them

__ distressed by clothes rubbing on skin; may want to wear shorts and short sleeves year round, toddlers may prefer to be naked and pull diapers and clothes off constantly

__ or, may want to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants year round to avoid having skin exposed

__ distressed about having face washed

__ distressed about having hair, toenails, or fingernails cut

__ resists brushing teeth and is extremely fearful of the dentist

__ is a picky eater, only eating certain tastes and textures; mixed textures tend to be avoided as well as hot or cold foods; resists trying new foods

__ may refuse to walk barefoot on grass or sand

__ may walk on toes only

2. Hyposensitivity To Touch (Under-Responsive):

__ may crave touch, needs to touch everything and everyone

__ is not aware of being touched/bumped unless done with extreme force or intensity

__ is not bothered by injuries, like cuts and bruises, and shows no distress with shots (may even say they love getting shots!)

__ may not be aware that hands or face are dirty or feel his/her nose running

__ may be self-abusive; pinching, biting, or banging his own head

__ mouths objects excessively

__ frequently hurts other children or pets while playing

__ repeatedly touches surfaces or objects that are soothing (i.e., blanket)

__ seeks out surfaces and textures that provide strong tactile feedback

__ thoroughly enjoys and seeks out messy play

__ craves vibrating or strong sensory input

__ has a preference and craving for excessively spicy, sweet, sour, or salty foods

3. Poor Tactile Perception And Discrimination:

__ has difficulty with fine motor tasks such as buttoning, zipping, and fastening clothes

__ may not be able to identify which part of their body was touched if they were not looking

__ may be afraid of the dark

__ may be a messy dresser; looks disheveled, does not notice pants are twisted, shirt is half un tucked, shoes are untied, one pant leg is up and one is down, etc.

__ has difficulty using scissors, crayons, or silverware

__ continues to mouth objects to explore them even after age two

__ has difficulty figuring out physical characteristics of objects; shape, size, texture, temperature, weight, etc.

__ may not be able to identify objects by feel, uses vision to help; such as, reaching into backpack or desk to retrieve an item

Vestibular Sense: input from the inner ear about equilibrium, gravitational changes, movement experiences, and position in space.

Signs Of Vestibular Dysfunction:

1. Hypersensitivity To Movement (Over-Responsive):

__ avoids/dislikes playground equipment; i.e., swings, ladders, slides, or merry-go-rounds

__ prefers sedentary tasks, moves slowly and cautiously, avoids taking risks, and may appear "wimpy"

__ avoids/dislikes elevators and escalators; may prefer sitting while they are on them or, actually get motion sickness from them

__ may physically cling to an adult they trust

__ may appear terrified of falling even when there is no real risk of it

__ afraid of heights, even the height of a curb or step

__ fearful of feet leaving the ground

__ fearful of going up or down stairs or walking on uneven surfaces

__ afraid of being tipped upside down, sideways or backwards; will strongly resist getting hair washed over the sink

__ startles if someone else moves them; i.e., pushing his/her chair closer to the table

__ as an infant, may never have liked baby swings or jumpers

__ may be fearful of, and have difficulty riding a bike, jumping, hopping, or balancing on one foot (especially if eyes are closed)

__ may have disliked being placed on stomach as an infant

__ loses balance easily and may appear clumsy

__ fearful of activities which require good balance

__ avoids rapid or rotating movements

2. Hyposensitivity To Movement (Under-Responsive):

__ in constant motion, can't seem to sit still

__ craves fast, spinning, and/or intense movement experiences

__ loves being tossed in the air

__ could spin for hours and never appear to be dizzy

__ loves the fast, intense, and/or scary rides at amusement parks

__ always jumping on furniture, trampolines, spinning in a swivel chair, or getting into upside down positions

__ loves to swing as high as possible and for long periods of time

__ is a "thrill-seeker"; dangerous at times

__ always running, jumping, hopping etc. instead of walking

__ rocks body, shakes leg, or head while sitting

__ likes sudden or quick movements, such as, going over a big bump in the car or on a bike

3. Poor Muscle Tone And/Or Coordination:

__ has a limp, "floppy" body

__ frequently slumps, lies down, and/or leans head on hand or arm while working at his/her desk

__ difficulty simultaneously lifting head, arms, and legs off the floor while lying on stomach ("superman" position)

__ often sits in a "W sit" position on the floor to stabilize body

__ fatigues easily!

__ compensates for "looseness" by grasping objects tightly

__ difficulty turning doorknobs, handles, opening and closing items

__ difficulty catching him/her self if falling

__ difficulty getting dressed and doing fasteners, zippers, and buttons

__ may have never crawled as an baby

__ has poor body awareness; bumps into things, knocks things over, trips, and/or appears clumsy

__ poor gross motor skills; jumping, catching a ball, jumping jacks, climbing a ladder etc.

__ poor fine motor skills; difficulty using "tools", such as pencils, silverware, combs, scissors etc.

__ may appear ambidextrous, frequently switching hands for coloring, cutting, writing etc.; does not have an established hand preference/dominance by 4 or 5 years old

__ has difficulty licking an ice cream cone

__ seems to be unsure about how to move body during movement, for example, stepping over something

__ difficulty learning exercise or dance steps

Proprioceptive Sense: input from the muscles and joints about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement, and changes in position in space.

Signs Of Proprioceptive Dysfunction:

1. Sensory Seeking Behaviors:

__ seeks out jumping, bumping, and crashing activities

__ stomps feet when walking

__ kicks his/her feet on floor or chair while sitting at desk/table

__ bites or sucks on fingers and/or frequently cracks his/her knuckles

__ loves to be tightly wrapped in many or weighted blankets, especially at bedtime

__ prefers clothes (and belts, hoods, shoelaces) to be as tight as possible

__ loves/seeks out "squishing" activities

__ enjoys bear hugs

__ excessive banging on/with toys and objects

__ loves "roughhousing" and tackling/wrestling games

__ frequently falls on floor intentionally

__ would jump on a trampoline for hours on end

__ grinds his/her teeth throughout the day

__ loves pushing/pulling/dragging objects

__ loves jumping off furniture or from high places

__ frequently hits, bumps or pushes other children

__ chews on pens, straws, shirt sleeves etc.

2. Difficulty With "Grading Of Movement":

__ misjudges how much to flex and extend muscles during tasks/activities (i.e., putting arms into sleeves or climbing)

__ difficulty regulating pressure when writing/drawing; may be too light to see or so hard the tip of writing utensil breaks

__ written work is messy and he/she often rips the paper when erasing

__ always seems to be breaking objects and toys

__ misjudges the weight of an object, such as a glass of juice, picking it up with too much force sending it flying or spilling, or with too little force and complaining about objects being too heavy

__ may not understand the idea of "heavy" or "light"; would not be able to hold two objects and tell you which weighs more

__ seems to do everything with too much force; i.e., walking, slamming doors, pressing things too hard, slamming objects down

__ plays with animals with too much force, often hurting them

Signs Of Auditory Dysfunction: (no diagnosed hearing problem)

1. Hypersensitivity To Sounds (Auditory Defensiveness):

__ distracted by sounds not normally noticed by others; i.e., humming of lights or refrigerators, fans, heaters, or clocks ticking

__ fearful of the sound of a flushing toilet (especially in public bathrooms), vacuum, hairdryer, squeaky shoes, or a dog barking

__ started with or distracted by loud or unexpected sounds

__ bothered/distracted by background environmental sounds; i.e., lawn mowing or outside construction

__ frequently asks people to be quiet; i.e., stop making noise, talking, or singing

__ runs away, cries, and/or covers ears with loud or unexpected sounds

__ may refuse to go to movie theaters, parades, skating rinks, musical concerts etc.

__ may decide whether they like certain people by the sound of their voice

2. Hyposensitivity To Sounds (Under-Registers):

__ often does not respond to verbal cues or to name being called

__ appears to "make noise for noise's sake"

__ loves excessively loud music or TV

__ seems to have difficulty understanding or remembering what was said

__ appears oblivious to certain sounds

__ appears confused about where a sound is coming from

__ talks self through a task, often out loud

__ had little or no vocalizing or babbling as an infant

__ needs directions repeated often, or will say, "What?" frequently

Signs Of Oral Input Dysfunction:

1. Hypersensitivity To Oral Input (Oral Defensiveness):

__ picky eater, often with extreme food preferences; i.e., limited repertoire of foods, picky about brands, resistive to trying new foods or restaurants, and may not eat at other people's houses)

__ may only eat "soft" or pureed foods past 24 months of age

__ may gag with textured foods

__ has difficulty with sucking, chewing, and swallowing; may choke or have a fear of choking

__ resists/refuses/extremely fearful of going to the dentist or having dental work done

__ may only eat hot or cold foods

__ refuses to lick envelopes, stamps, or stickers because of their taste

__ dislikes or complains about toothpaste and mouthwash

__ avoids seasoned, spicy, sweet, sour or salty foods; prefers bland foods

2. Hyposensitivity To Oral Input (Under-Registers)

__ may lick, taste, or chew on inedible objects

__ prefers foods with intense flavor; i.e., excessively spicy, sweet, sour, or salty

__ excessive drooling past the teething stage

__ frequently chews on hair, shirt, or fingers

__ constantly putting objects in mouth past the toddler years

__ acts as if all foods taste the same

__ can never get enough condiments or seasonings on his/her food

__ loves vibrating toothbrushes and even trips to the dentist

Signs Of Olfactory Dysfunction (Smells):

1. Hypersensitivity To Smells (Over-Responsive):

__ reacts negatively to, or dislikes smells which do not usually bother, or get noticed, by other people

__ tells other people (or talks about) how bad or funny they smell

__ refuses to eat certain foods because of their smell

__ offended and/or nauseated by bathroom odors or personal hygiene smells

__ bothered/irritated by smell of perfume or cologne

__ bothered by household or cooking smells

__ may refuse to play at someone's house because of the way it smells

__ decides whether he/she likes someone or some place by the way it smells

2. Hyposensitivity To Smells (Under-Responsive):

__ has difficulty discriminating unpleasant odors

__ may drink or eat things that are poisonous because they do not notice the noxious smell

__ unable to identify smells from scratch 'n sniff stickers

__ does not notice odors that others usually complain about

__ fails to notice or ignores unpleasant odors

__ makes excessive use of smelling when introduced to objects, people, or places

__ uses smell to interact with objects

Signs Of Visual Input Dysfunction (No Diagnosed Visual Deficit):

1. Hypersensitivity To Visual Input (Over-Responsiveness)

__ sensitive to bright lights; will squint, cover eyes, cry and/or get headaches from the light

__ has difficulty keeping eyes focused on task/activity he/she is working on for an appropriate amount of time

__ easily distracted by other visual stimuli in the room; i.e., movement, decorations, toys, windows, doorways etc.

__ has difficulty in bright colorful rooms or a dimly lit room

__ rubs his/her eyes, has watery eyes or gets headaches after reading or watching TV

__ avoids eye contact

__ enjoys playing in the dark

2. Hyposensitivity To Visual Input (Under-Responsive Or Difficulty With Tracking, Discrimination, Or Perception):

__ has difficulty telling the difference between similar printed letters or figures; i.e., p & q, b & d, + and x, or square and rectangle

__ has a hard time seeing the "big picture"; i.e., focuses on the details or patterns within the picture

__ has difficulty locating items among other items; i.e., papers on a desk, clothes in a drawer, items on a grocery shelf, or toys in a bin/toy box

__ often loses place when copying from a book or the chalkboard

__ difficulty controlling eye movement to track and follow moving objects

__ has difficulty telling the difference between different colors, shapes, and sizes

__ often loses his/her place while reading or doing math problems

__ makes reversals in words or letters when copying, or reads words backwards; i.e., "was" for "saw" and "no" for "on" after first grade

__ complains about "seeing double"

__ difficulty finding differences in pictures, words, symbols, or objects

__ difficulty with consistent spacing and size of letters during writing and/or lining up numbers in math problems

__ difficulty with jigsaw puzzles, copying shapes, and/or cutting/tracing along a line

__ tends to write at a slant (up or down hill) on a page

__ confuses left and right

__ fatigues easily with schoolwork

__ difficulty judging spatial relationships in the environment; i.e., bumps into objects/people or missteps on curbs and stairs

Auditory-Language Processing Dysfunction:

__ unable to locate the source of a sound

__ difficulty identifying people's voices

__ difficulty discriminating between sounds/words; i.e., "dare" and "dear"

__ difficulty filtering out other sounds while trying to pay attention to one person talking

__ bothered by loud, sudden, metallic, or high-pitched sounds

__ difficulty attending to, understanding, and remembering what is said or read; often asks for directions to be repeated and may only be able to understand or follow two sequential directions at a time

__ looks at others to/for reassurance before answering

__ difficulty putting ideas into words (written or verbal)

__ often talks out of turn or "off topic"

__ if not understood, has difficulty re-phrasing; may get frustrated, angry, and give up

__ difficulty reading, especially out loud (may also be dyslexic)

__ difficulty articulating and speaking clearly

__ ability to speak often improves after intense movement

Social, Emotional, Play, And Self-Regulation Dysfunction:


__ difficulty getting along with peers

__ prefers playing by self with objects or toys rather than with people

__ does not interact reciprocally with peers or adults; hard to have a "meaningful" two-way conversation

__ self-abusive or abusive to others

__ others have a hard time interpreting child's cues, needs, or emotions

__ does not seek out connections with familiar people


__ difficulty accepting changes in routine (to the point of tantrums)

__ gets easily frustrated

__ often impulsive

__ functions best in small group or individually

__ variable and quickly changing moods; prone to outbursts and tantrums

__ prefers to play on the outside, away from groups, or just be an observer

__ avoids eye contact

__ difficulty appropriately making needs known


__ difficulty with imitative play (over 10 months)

__ wanders aimlessly without purposeful play or exploration (over 15 months)

__ needs adult guidance to play, difficulty playing independently (over 18 months)

__ participates in repetitive play for hours; i.e., lining up toys cars, blocks, watching one movie over and over etc.


__ excessive irritability, fussiness or colic as an infant

__ can't calm or soothe self through pacifier, comfort object, or caregiver

__ can't go from sleeping to awake without distress

__ requires excessive help from caregiver to fall asleep; i.e., rubbing back or head, rocking, long walks, or car rides

Internal Regulation (The Interoceptive Sense):

__ becoming too hot or too cold sooner than others in the same environments; may not appear to ever get cold/hot, may not be able to maintain body temperature effectively

__ difficulty in extreme temperatures or going from one extreme to another (i.e., winter, summer, going from air conditioning to outside heat, a heated house to the cold outside)

__ respiration that is too fast, too slow, or cannot switch from one to the other easily as the body demands an appropriate respiratory response

__ heart rate that speeds up or slows down too fast or too slow based on the demands imposed on it

__ respiration and heart rate that takes longer than what is expected to slow down during or after exertion or fear

__ severe/several mood swings throughout the day (angry to happy in short periods of time, perhaps without visible cause)

__ unpredictable state of arousal or inability to control arousal level (hyper to lethargic, quickly, vacillating between the two; over stimulated to under stimulated, within hours or days, depending on activity and setting, etc.)

__ frequent constipation or diarrhea, or mixed during the same day or over a few days

__ difficulty with potty training; does not seem to know when he/she has to go (i.e., cannot feel the necessary sensation that bowel or bladder are full

__ unable to regulate thirst; always thirsty, never thirsty, or oscillates back and forth

__ unable to regulate hunger; eats all the time, won't eat at all, unable to feel full/hungry

__ unable to regulate appetite; has little to no appetite and/or will be "starving" one minute then full two bites later, then back to hungry again (prone to eating

As more research is conducted, more techniques and therapies to assist children are created. Through these techniques, occupational therapists enable children to take part in the normal actions of childhood – playing with friends, enjoying school, eating, dressing, and sleeping.

 Subtypes of SPD

Sensory Processing Disorder is now being used as a global umbrella term that includes all forms of this disorder, including three primary diagnostic groups:
 Type I - Sensory Modulation Disorder
 Type II - Sensory Based Motor Disorder
 Type III - Sensory Discrimination Disorder

Type I - Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD). Over, or under responding to sensory stimuli or seeking sensory stimulation. This group may include a fearful and/or anxious pattern, negative and/or stubborn behaviors, self-absorbed behaviors that are difficult to engage or creative or actively seeking sensation.
Type II - Sensory Based Motor Disorder (SBMD). Shows motor output that is disorganized as a result of incorrect processing of sensory information affecting postural control challenges and/or dyspraxia.
Type III - Sensory Discrimination Disorder (SDD). Sensory discrimination or incorrect processing of sensory information. Incorrect processing of visual or auditory input, for example, may be seen in inattentiveness, disorganization, and poor school performance.

 How can you help a child with SPD?
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Sensory Processing Disorder

Every classroom has one: the kid who bangs against things incessantly, won't make eye contact and acts up whenever the school bell sounds. He or she may be autistic or in need of Ritalin. But there's a chance such children are simply overwhelmed by their own senses.

According to Roya Ostovar, a neuropsychologist at Harvard Medical School, some children have problems receiving and organizing sensory input from the environment. Known as sensory processing disorder, the condition involves the visual, tactile, oral, auditory and olfactory senses, as well as the senses used to balance and locate oneself in space.

For children with SPD, normal clothing may feel like sandpaper and school lighting can seem like a laser beam burning their eyes. It's an intensely stressful disorder that interferes with everyday functioning, says Dr. Ostovar, author ofThe Ultimate Guide to Sensory Processing in Children: Easy, Everyday Solutions to Sensory Challenges.


Symptoms of SPD include picky eating, frequent meltdowns, clumsiness and difficulty getting to sleep without a parent. Isn't this normal kid behaviour?

Yes. However, what distinguishes this disorder is that children with SPD really can't live a normal life and [can't]go about their day-to-day functioning without interference from these symptoms.

What causes sensory processing disorder?

It seems there are hereditary and genetic factors involved, and prenatal issues if the mother used drugs, alcohol or some prescription medications while pregnant. During birth, sometimes there are traumas that cause, for example, a lack of oxygen to the brain. Or once the child is born, there may be neurological or medical conditions and trauma such as falls, injuries, surgery or even chronic abuse and neglect.

Autistic children are known to have sensory issues. What makes SPD a standalone disorder?

Many children with SPD do not have other symptoms of autism - they have good adaptive skills, they can communicate well with their peers and they have good social skills. But they really have difficulty processing sensory information accurately and effectively.

How do these kids do in school?

We know for sure that 5 to 13 per cent of children entering school experience the symptoms of this disorder - and 73 to 75 per cent are boys. They walk into school already feeling there's too much to deal with. Faced with the crowd at school, all the noises, all the tactile information and the various lights, their sense system feels quite overwhelmed. So it's very difficult for students with SPD to function successfully in school without appropriate treatments.

Parents without special-needs kids may wonder if SPD is justanelaborate excuse for bad behaviour.

SPD is a real disorder. And there are ways that you can distinguish between SPD and a behavioural disorder. You can consider the child's reaction and responses to sensory input, especially those to touch and movement. Children with SPD seem truly pained and uneasy when they're experiencing sensory information that their bodies cannot process well.

If there is no standard diagnostic test for SPD, how do health professionals make sense of the cluster of symptoms?

Occupational therapists have the tools to test for this disorder and many psychologists and neurophysiologists can work with families to get the necessary diagnosis. Pediatricians are becoming informed about this disorder and referring children and their families to occupational therapists.

What kind of therapies help children with SPD?

The main form of treatment is occupational therapy that is focused on sensory integration and developing what is called a sensory diet. The child is given a prescription, a method to calm down and organize the senses. Activities and items are chosen by the therapist to be fun, enjoyable and encouraging to the child and meet the specific needs of the child. They may include listening to certain music or doing yoga, but the activities are not random or sudden the way day-to-day life is.

Why is there such a push to have SPD included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, due out in 2012?

If it's not included as a disorder, it's more difficult for families to get services and coverage for treatments through their insurance.

Skeptics argue this is a vague disorder that represents a growth industry for occupational therapists, and that parents are paying upwardof $10,000 a year for unproven therapies.

I can understand their position. This is a new disorder. However, this is a real disorder. If we go back and look at autism, Asperger's syndrome and well-known disorders such as ADHD and schizophrenia, you can see that in most of these cases from the time the first cases were described in the literature to the time when they were officially recognized as a diagnosis it took 40 or 50 years.

What's the best-case scenario for a child with SPD?

If a child begins to see an occupational therapist and has sensory integration therapy, you begin to see an improvement in all the areas of functioning: their attention, concentration, socialization and even their self-esteem. They start to participate more fully at home and at school - typically, between six months to a year.

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