Previously referred to as Sensory Integration Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) represents a disconnect between the nervous system and brain.  When this disconnect is present, children with SPD encounter external stimuli as difficult to process and integrate.

What is SPD?

SPD causes sensory inputs to be improperly interpreted, whether emitting from the immediate environment or the body itself.  This leads to unexpected responses.

When children struggle with SPD, feelings which are natural for other children (fatigue, hunger, heat, cold, sound, light) can be difficult to interpret, causing them to becoming overwhelmed.

SPD is not standard from one child to the next and, like autism, exists on a spectrum.  Taste, hearing, smell and touch can all be affected by SPD.

For parents, determining the sensation your child is responding to can be challenging.  Part of the work is to guide the child toward better sensory regulation and identification.

Not necessarily autism

NPD was once associated solely with children on the autism spectrum.  Today, though, it is considered a unique disorder which can exist independent of an autism diagnosis.

It’s also important to note that not all autistic children suffer from SPD.

Symptoms

Following are some key symptoms of SPD.  The presence of these symptoms may indicate that your child needs support to manage them:

Extreme response/no response:

Sensory input like cold should evoke a shiver, not a tantrum.  But it should evoke some response. Children with SPD will have either extreme or no response to sensory input.  An example is children who don’t acknowledge the cold (because they don’t feel it) and fail to wear a jacket outdoors for that reason.

Textures/clothing:

Children with SPD are highly sensitive to textures.  Some clothing (wool comes to mind) produces an intolerable sensation.  Also, clothing with seams which aren’t noticed by other children are unwearable for SPD children.

Change/transition aversion:

Changing activities or moving from one room of the house to another or another classroom can all be challenging for SPD children.

They may also over react to changes like new furnishing in the home, or new people.  Unexpected changes can cause full on meltdowns and/or withdrawal.

Noise:

While the sound of an ambulance passing on the street, sirens wailing, annoys most people, sounds like that (loud and sustained) can elicit a physical pain response in a child with SPD.

Food:

SPD children will often have extreme responses to certain food textures or colors.  This is a difficult challenge for parents, compelling them to carefully help their children navigate the world of food with an understanding of what triggers them.

Lack of spatial awareness:

When SPD children are overwhelmed by sensory stimuli, they may have difficulty locating themselves in relation to items like furniture.  Their limited ability to govern their placement in a physical environment which has become “too much” for them.

Fun Factory sensory gym

The Fun Factory sensory gym has been created to educate, challenge and stimulate, bringing the outdoor play experience into a more private setting which is safe and non-threatening, supporting the efforts of therapists and parents.