Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder

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Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder
[ PATIENT HANDOUT ]
Understanding Sensory
Processing Disorder
E
very day you react to stimuli, external
and internal. For instance, when your
child tries to get your attention she
calls your name, touches your arm,
and stands in front of you. Your senses absorb
these stimuli, transmit them to the brain, and
as a result, you know how to react – pick her
up, feed her, change her if there is an accompanying aroma.
This is sensory integration. It is how you function successfully and easily throughout the day.
Your senses and brain work together to help
you respond appropriately to even the smallest
of stimuli. However, not every individual functions this way. Some have difficulty, so much
so that this difficulty has been coined sensory
processing disorder (SPD).
THE SENSES
To best understand SPD, you must first understand your senses. While the five (sight, sound,
touch, taste, and smell) you were most likely
taught in elementary school are correct and vital,
they don’t comprise the whole picture. Here are
a few added details about the senses:
• Tactile – experienced through touch; broken into two systems
• Protective/defensive system – alerts the
body to harmful stimuli
• Discriminative system – tells the body
that it is touching something and enables
an understanding of what is being
touched/how and to what degree
• Vestibular – orients the body to where it is
in relation to the ground; rrelies on sight, as
well as the ear to indicate movement and
provide a sense of gravity
gravity.
• Propriocetive – indicate
indicates how the parts
of the body function and where they are;
includes joint and muscle sensations and
feelings of stretching or contracting;
co
allows
for motor control/motor p
planning.
SPD
ADVANCE
Sensory processing
proce
disorder
occurs whe
when an individual’s
senses o
or sense systems
dysfunction. Essendysf
tial
tially somewhere
bet
between processing a stimulus and
actin
acting in response,
the signa
signals get lost. This
can result in extr
extreme sensitivity
to touch, sound, sm
smell, and light. It
can make it difficult for a child to master
gross or fine motor skills. There are many ways in
which SPD manifests – no individual
indiv
is the same.
One or many parts of the sense
sens system can be
affected. Thus, there is no set mold for how a
child with SPD acts or how he/she
hee
responds to
stimuli. However, some responses
resp
p
are more
common or telltale than others,
oth
h
such as:
• Avoids certain textures
texture
e – rough cloths,
rugs, stuffed animals
• Dislikes kisses; prefers hugs
• Overreacts to small bumps, scrapes and
bruises
• Self-abusing
• Mouths objects continually, even after age
two
• Craves strong sensory input
• Has difficulty using buttons, zippers, or
fasteners
• Is In constant motion
• Has a limp, floppy body
• Loves to jump, bump or crash
• Falls down intentionally
• Uses too much force with animals or other
people; uses too much force in day to day
activities
• Distracted by low sounds
• Fearful of sounds such as squeaky shoes
or a flushing toilet
• Does not respond to verbal cues
• Loves excessively loud noises
TREATMENT
As evidence by the list above (a very short,
incomplete list), SPD has many different faces.
To truly determine if your child has SPD, he/
she should see a professional. If diagnosed, the
occupational therapist will work with your child
and provide you with exercises/activities that
you can do throughout the day to make it a
little easier to live with SPD. ■
Information for this handout was gathered
from:
• The Sensory Processing Disorder Resource Center:
www.sensory-processing-disorder.com.
• Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation: www.sinetwork
.org
NOTES:
DISCLAIMER: Your doctor or therapist has given you this patient handout to further explain or remind you about an issue related
to your health. This handout is a general guide only. If you have specific questions, discuss them with your doctor or therapist.

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