1. What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

It’s a disorder related to how your brain processes sensory input. So people who have it can be hyper-sensitive, i.e they are extremely sensitive to sounds, touch, light etc. Even common sounds, for example, the sound of a table fan may cause them to vomit or dive under the table,  and even a simple stroke or a hug feels painful to bear. They can also be hypo-sensitive that is no matter how much stimulus the child gets, his brain does not recognize it. Such children can cut themselves and do not know because they do not feel the pain that signals the blood loss.

2. How is SPD different from Autism?

Sensory Processing Disorder occurs when there is delayed, and inefficient neurological processing and the sensory signals do not get interpreted correctly. While Autism and SPD are two different and distinct conditions, children on the autism spectrum do have a significantly higher rate of sensory processing delays.

3. What are the symptoms of SPD?
  • Sensory processing disorder may affect only one sense – such as sight or hearing – or it can impact multiple senses and impacts each child in a different way. Many children with sensory processing disorder start out as fussy babies who become anxious as they grow older. These kids often don’t handle change well. They may frequently throw tantrums or have meltdowns. Children with SPD may also have impairments of the joints and muscles, impacting posture and motor skills.
  • Behavioural Symptoms: Withdrawal when touched; Difficulties calming oneself after exercise or being upset; Refuse to eat certain foods due to the textures of the foods; Be hypersensitive to certain fabrics; Only wear soft clothes or clothes without tags; Dislike dirtying his or her hands; Do not engage in creative play; Oversensitivity to sounds, especially hair dryers, washing machines, or sirens; Be oversensitive to odors – strong or mild
  • Have challenges with certain movements, such as swinging, sliding, or going down stairs Notice or hear background noises that others cannot hear; Have odd posture; Clumsiness; Poor balance; Jump, swing, spin excessively; High tolerance to pain.
4. Are they visible in the brain?

Yes, SPD can be detected through a brain scan.

5. What is the cause?

The precise cause for SPD is still unknown, although researchers are spending much time learning more about the condition. Some of the potential causes for SPD may include:

Genetic: Children born to adults who have autism spectrum disorders may be at higher risk for developing sensory processing disorder. Additionally, children with Asperger syndrome or autism are at a higher risk for developing SPD. Boys are more likely than girls to have SPD.

6. What are the kinds of intervention that are available?

Children who have sensory processing disorder are effectively treated by a combination of physical and occupational therapy that focuses upon activities that strengthen a child’s ability to handle sensory stimuli appropriately. Over time, a child will learn to appropriately respond to sensory stimuli so that they are able to behave in a more positive manner in therapy, in school, and at home

7. What is referred to as a meltdown? How to deal with SPD meltdowns?

SPD meltdowns are different from a normal tantrum. A normal tantrum gets pacified after the need of the child is met or until the trigger that causes it is removed. But SPD meltdown, once the trigger sets off, it can hardly be contained even after the child’s needs are met. Hence tantrums and SPD melt-downs need require different strategies. SPD meltdown is not a simple bad behaviour but a neurological problem. The child here does not choose to get overwhelmed and does not do it to seek attention. The best way is to try and eliminate sensory related triggers. One can help the child master a scale system, where the child can express the level of discomfort before the melt-down occurs.

8. Does SPD occur with other disorders as well?

Sensory processing disorder may occur with other types of disorders. The most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Autism
  • Asperger syndrome
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Language disorders
  • Learning disabilities
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Fragile X syndrome