Sensory Processing Disorder occurs when the brain doesn’t integrate or process incoming sensory information correctly. Usually, it is diagnosed during childhood. Sensory processing disorder causes children a lot of discomfort and can make even routine activities extraordinarily difficult for both them and their parents or caregivers. Patients with sensory processing disorder are generally either oversensitive or undersensitive to one or more types of sensory stimuli, with sounds and tactile sensation being the most likely sensory modalities to be affected. These four major signs could sometimes indicated that a toddler or young child might actually have some form of sensory processing disorder. If this describes your child, you may want to talk to your doctor about screening to further investigate this possibility.
4 Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder
#1: Unusual Aversion to Being Touched
It’s very common for sensory processing disorder to manifest as an aversion to certain tactile sensations. SPD can make children hypersensitive to heat or cold, or averse to hugs, cuddling, or other normally pleasurable sensations. Clothing often becomes an issue, with even soft fabrics feeling scratchy or uncomfortable to the child, causing them to show signs of emotional distress.
#2: Bright Lights or Loud Sounds Cause Agitation or Overstimulation
Stimuli that most people would barely notice, like clanking silverware or the light from a lamp in a room, can be uncomfortable for children with sensory processing disorder.
#3: They Have An Unusual Desire to Touch and Feel Objects
Although sensory processing disorder sometimes involves oversensitivity, it can also take the form of undersensitivity to some sensory stimuli. This can make a child feel inclined to touch or feel objects.
#4: Relatively Poor Balance and Coordination
Sensory processing disorder can also impact a child’s sense of proprioception, or where their body is in space. These children often have relatively poor gross motor skills, balance and coordination relative to their age and development. This can become evident on the playground, during sports, or in PE class. Fine motor tasks, like tying shoes or buttoning clothes, can also be affected.
Diagnosing and Treating Sensory Processing Disorder
A child who seems chronically over- or undersensitive to certain sensory stimuli might actually have Sensory Processing Disorder. If you suspect that this might be the case, you may want to discuss this issue with your child’s pediatrician. They might be referred to a specialist who is an expert in childhood developmental disorders. Qualified professionals can determine whether your child suffers from SPD, which generally involves ruling out other conditions such as autism spectrum disorders or ADHD. Several tests and questionnaires are in widespread clinical use, including:
- The Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT)
- The Test of Sensory Function in Infants (TSFI), used with very young children
- The Infant/Toddler Sensory Profile
- The Sensory Processing Measure (SPM)
Sensory processing disorder can be treated with several forms of therapy. These can help remediate the difficulties that arise from the problems the child’s brain has with putting sensory information together into a cohesive whole that allows them to successfully navigate the world around them.
One of the newest and most promising approaches to sensory processing disorder treatment is neurofeedback therapy. Neurofeedback uses EEG equipment to measure brain activity, providing real-time feedback to help train patients (including children) to alter their own brainwave patterns. Neurofeedback therapy is safe, effective, and has been used for numerous brain-based disorders, including those involving sensory integration and processing.