February 15, 2023

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorders

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition in which an individual's brain has difficulty receiving and responding to sensory information from the environment. This can lead to various problems, such as over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to certain types of sensory input. SPD can affect people of all ages, and it can have a significant impact on an individual's daily life.

Sensory Processing

In this article, we'll explore the different types of sensory processing disorder, their symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Types of Sensory Processing Disorder

There are three main types of sensory processing disorder:

1. Sensory Modulation Disorder

Sensory modulation disorder refers to difficulty regulating sensory input. This can manifest in three ways:

  • Sensory over-responsivity: An individual with sensory over-responsivity may be hypersensitive to certain types of sensory input, such as loud noises or bright lights.
  • Sensory under-responsivity: An individual with sensory under-responsivity may be less responsive to certain types of sensory input, such as touch or temperature.
  • Sensory seeking: An individual with sensory seeking behavior may crave certain types of sensory input, such as spinning or jumping.

2. Sensory Discrimination Disorder

Sensory discrimination disorder refers to difficulty distinguishing between different types of sensory input. An individual with this type of SPD may have difficulty recognizing the difference between a soft touch and a painful one, for example.

3. Sensory-Based Motor Disorder

Sensory-based motor disorder refers to difficulty with motor planning and execution that is related to poor processing of sensory input. An individual with this type of SPD may have difficulty with tasks that require coordination or balance, such as riding a bike or catching a ball.

Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder

The symptoms of sensory processing disorder can vary widely depending on the type of SPD an individual has. However, there are some common symptoms that may indicate SPD:

  • Over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to certain types of sensory input, such as noise, light, touch, taste, or smell.
  • Difficulty with transitions or changes in routine.
  • Poor coordination or balance.
  • Delayed speech or language development.
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as using scissors or tying shoelaces.
  • Avoidance of certain types of sensory input, such as wearing certain types of clothing or eating certain foods.
  • Sensory seeking behavior, such as spinning, jumping, or chewing on objects.

Causes of Sensory Processing Disorder

The exact causes of sensory processing disorder are not fully understood. However, there are several theories:

  • Genetic factors: Some research suggests that SPD may have a genetic component, meaning that it can run in families.
  • Premature birth: Premature babies are more likely to have SPD.
  • Neurological factors: Some researchers believe that SPD is caused by differences in the way the brain processes sensory input.
  • Environmental factors: Certain environmental factors, such as exposure to toxins, may increase the risk of developing SPD.

It's important to note that there is no evidence to suggest that SPD is caused by poor parenting or lack of discipline.

Diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder

Diagnosing sensory processing disorder can be challenging because the symptoms can be subtle and may be mistaken for other conditions. However, there are several ways that SPD can be diagnosed:

  • Observation: A healthcare professional may observe the individual's behavior and ask questions about their sensory experiences.
  • Questionnaires: A healthcare professional may use questionnaires to assess an individual's sensory processing abilities.
  • Sensory integration testing: This involves exposing the individual to different types of sensory input and observing their responses.

Treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder

The treatment of sensory processing disorder depends on the type and severity of the condition. Here are some common treatments:

  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy can help individuals with SPD learn how to regulate their sensory input and
  • Sensory Integration Therapy

Sensory integration therapy is a type of occupational therapy that focuses on helping individuals with SPD learn to process and respond to sensory input in a more effective way. During therapy sessions, the individual is exposed to different types of sensory input, such as touch, sound, and movement, in a controlled environment. The therapist works with the individual to help them learn how to process and respond to these inputs in a way that is more appropriate and effective.

Sensory Diets

A sensory diet is a personalized set of activities that are designed to provide an individual with the specific types of sensory input they need to regulate their sensory processing. The sensory diet is typically developed by an occupational therapist and may include activities such as deep pressure, swinging, bouncing, or brushing. The goal of a sensory diet is to provide the individual with the sensory input they need to feel calm and organized.

Environmental Modifications

Modifying the individual's environment can also be an effective treatment for SPD. This may involve making changes to the lighting, noise levels, or temperature of a room, or providing the individual with sensory-friendly clothing or equipment. For example, an individual with SPD may benefit from wearing noise-cancelling headphones or using a fidget toy to help them focus.

Social Skills Training

Many individuals with SPD struggle with social interactions, particularly if their SPD impacts their ability to process social cues. Social skills training can be an effective way to help these individuals learn how to navigate social situations. This type of training typically involves role-playing and other activities that help the individual learn how to interpret and respond to social cues.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that helps individuals learn how to identify and change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. CBT can be an effective treatment for individuals with SPD who struggle with anxiety or other emotional issues related to their condition.


In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help manage the symptoms of SPD. For example, an individual with SPD who struggles with anxiety or depression may benefit from an antidepressant medication.


It's important to note that there is no single treatment that works for everyone with SPD. Treatment must be tailored to the individual's specific needs and may involve a combination of different approaches. A team of healthcare professionals, including occupational therapists, psychologists, and other specialists, can work together to develop an effective treatment plan.

Scotch Plains

1801 E 2nd St.
Scotch Plains, NJ 07076
Serving Westfield, Cranford, Berkeley Heights, Watchung, New Providence, and Summit

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