with sensory processing disorder have difficulty processing information
from the senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, and hearing) and
responding appropriately to that information. These children typically have one
or more senses that either over- or underreact to stimulation. Sensory processing disorder can cause problems with a child's development and
Who has sensory processing disorder?
autism and other
developmental disabilities often have sensory processing disorder. But sensory processing disorder can also be
associated with premature birth, brain injury, learning disorders, and other
What causes sensory processing disorder?
exact cause of sensory processing disorder is not known. It is commonly
seen in people with autism,
Asperger's syndrome, and other developmental
disabilities. Most research suggests that people with autism have irregular
brain function. More study is needed to determine the cause of these
irregularities, but current research indicates they may be inherited.
What are the symptoms?
Children with sensory processing disorder cannot properly process sensory stimulation from the
outside world. Your child may:
Either be in constant motion or fatigue easily
or go back and forth between the two.
Refuse to eat certain foods because of how the foods feel
Be oversensitive to odors.
hypersensitive to certain fabrics and only wear clothes that are soft or that
they find pleasing.
Dislike getting his or her hands
Be uncomfortable with some movements, such as swinging,
sliding, or going down ramps or other inclines. Your young child may have
trouble learning to climb, go down stairs, or ride an escalator.
Have difficulty calming himself or herself after exercise or after
Jump, swing, and spin excessively.
Appear clumsy, trip easily, or have poor balance.
Have odd posture.
Have difficulty handling small
objects such as buttons or snaps.
Be overly sensitive to sound.
Vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, hair dryers, leaf blowers, or sirens may be
Lack creativity and variety in play. For instance, your
child may play with the same toys in the same manner over and over or prefer
only to watch TV or videos.
How is sensory processing disorder diagnosed?
health professional, often an occupational or physical therapist, will evaluate
your child by observing his or her responses to sensory stimulation, posture,
balance, coordination, and eye movements. While many children have a few of the
symptoms described above, your health professional will look for a pattern of
behavior when diagnosing sensory processing disorder.
How is it treated?
Sensory integration therapy,
usually conducted by an occupational or physical therapist, is often
recommended for children who have sensory processing disorder. It focuses on
activities that challenge the child with sensory input. The therapist then
helps the child respond appropriately to this sensory stimulus.
Therapy might include applying deep touch pressure to a child's skin with
the goal of allowing him or her to become more used to and process being
touched. Also, play such as tug-of-war or with heavy objects, such as a
medicine ball, can help increase a child's awareness of her or his own body in
space and how it relates to other people.
Although it has not
been widely studied, many therapists have found that sensory integration
therapy improves problem behaviors.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.