Sensory processing disorder is a condition in which the individual in question doesn’t respond in a normal manner when they are exposed to certain sounds, smells, textures, or other external stimuli. This might include hypersensitivity to music or hyposensitivity to strong stimuli that should evoke a response.
Also known as SPD, the Sensory Processing Disorder concept evolved out of an older concept known as “Sensory Integration Dysfunction. It is more common in children, although it can affect adults. It also has a strong prevalence in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Though for some individuals, diagnosing SPD can be a challenge, as there are no official criteria set in place to delineate SPD. However, there are some relatively standard treatments for sensory processing disorder, which is a specific type of occupational therapy known as sensory integration therapy.
What Are The Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder?
An individual with sensory processing disorder typically doesn’t respond normally to stimuli that others would not be affected by in one of three distinct ways.
Some might be over-responsive or “Hyper-Responsive” to things like bright lights, loud noises, sudden sounds, or sustained noises. Even things like the sensation of scratchy or itchy fabrics such as wool or clothing tags against their skin can evoke a hyper-response. There are even some individuals with sensory processing disorder who can’t withstand the pressure of a hug, or being in a crowd of tightly packed people.
Many times, over-responsivity to external stimuli can cause a child with ASD or an adult with ADHD or PTSD to experience anxiety, or have trouble engaging in routine activities. This can include pronounced difficulty adapting to new situations. For children, over-responsive reactions can sometimes be so mild that they go unnoticed.
Though there are other times when they can be debilitating to the point that the child must leave the situation immediately. This in turn can make it hard for a child with SPD to engage socially with other kids in noisy or distracting environments like arcades, school dances, or music concerts.
Children with SPD might have a delayed or a muted response to external stimuli. This is known as under-responsivity or hypo-responsivity. This can include things like not overtly reacting to the pain of a scraped knee or showing discomfort in extreme cold or heat.
Sometimes the brain chemistry of a child with sensory processing disorder doesn’t adequately process messages from the muscles or joints. This manifests as impairment in their motor skills or posture, which might make them appear to be clumsy.
Another form of SPD is known as sensory craving. This is where the affected child feels driven to seek out stimuli. They might even feel this craving so strongly that they start to act out inappropriately.
Forms Of Anxiety & Sensory Processing Disorder
A lot of children with sensory processing disorder will experience anxiety and might have other disorders or comorbidities that manifest as a result. This includes things like:
This is a coordination disorder that influences the development of fine motor skills. Many younger children with dyspraxia seem to be slow to reach common milestones such as walking or feeding themselves. As they age, children with dyspraxia might also struggle with things like writing, drawing, and certain physical activities.
The impaired perception of body position and movement that often occurs in conjunction with sensory processing disorder can also lead to postural issues. Left unchecked this can cause muscle imbalance problems and might lead to conditions affecting their back.
Sensory Discrimination Disorder
This manifests as a general inability to detect subtle differences in visual, tactile, auditory, and physical input. It makes it hard for the child to know how to respond and may present as a failure to respond normally to common external stimuli.
What Causes Sensory Processing Disorder In Children With ASD?
At this time, it’s not entirely clear what causes sensory processing disorder in children or adults with autism spectrum disorder. Though a growing body of research has suggested SPD may be inherited, related to prenatal care, or possible birth complications. There is also evidence to suggest that there are certain environmental factors that might also play a role.
Though the research into genetics offers up the strongest evidence that researchers can track scientifically. There