Sensory Processing Disorder

What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

SPD is a neurological disorder in which the sensory information that the individual perceives results in abnormal responses. Unlike people who have impaired sight or hearing, those with SPD do detect the sensory information but it gets “mixed up” in their brain and therefore the responses are inappropriate in the context in which they find themselves. (SPD Foundation 2015)

What SPD may look like

Some people with SPD are Hypersensitive to sensory input and may avoid certain situations that they fear or feel are bothersome.

These are some behaviors they may be a clue to sensory hypersensitivity:

  • Extreme reaction to or fear of noise
  • Distracted by background noise
  • Avoids hugs and cuddling
  • Doesn’t like his or her feet to be off the ground
  • Has poor balance, may fall often

Other people with SPD are Hyposensitive to sensory input and may seek input in certain situations.

These are some behaviors they may be a clue to sensory hyposensitivity:

  • Need to touch people or textures
  • Doesn’t understand personal space
  • High tolerance for or indifference to pain
  • Doesn’t understand his or her own strength
  • May be very fidgety and unable to sit still

Many people cannot be neatly classified as hyper or hypo-sensitive.  In fact, most people with SPD generally fit into one of the categories, but may seek out certain sensory stimuli (hyposensitive), and avoid other stimuli (hypersensitive).


Occupational Therapy (OT) is usually the best place to start with treatment. The OT will come up with a Sensory Diet of activities to desensitize or provide input. These activities may include jumping on a trampoline, swinging, dry brushing and joint compressions, swimming, tasting new foods, etc.

Tools to help with SPD

Hypersensitive (Avoiding): Noise reducing headphones, earplugs, wobble board, body socks, resistance tunnel, pressure vests

Hyposensitive (Seeking): Swings, Wilbarger pressure brushes, trampoline, balls, chewies, weighted products, fidgets


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