Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a neurological condition that affects the way individuals process and respond to sensory input. Sensory processing issues can affect any of the senses, including touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight. Common sensory issues in children with SPD include:   

  • Hypersensitivity: Over-responsiveness to sensory stimuli, such as loud noises or bright lights 

  • Hyposensitivity: Under-responsiveness to sensory stimuli, such as not noticing when their name is called 

  • Sensory seeking: An intense craving for sensory input, which may lead to repetitive behaviors or stimming 

The impact of sensory issues on daily life can be significant, affecting a child's ability to concentrate, engage in social interactions, and participate in everyday activities. 

A photo of a young girl organizing toys.

Identifying Sensory Issues in Your Child 

 Some signs and symptoms of sensory issues include: 

  • Difficulty with changes in routine or environment 

  • Feeling overwhelmed by crowded or noisy situations 

  • Avoidance of certain textures or tastes 

To better understand your child's sensory responses, start by observing and documenting their reactions to sources of stimulation affecting their different senses. A medical professional or therapist can help assess and treat your child's sensory difficulties, tailoring interventions to their specific needs. 

Therapies to Improve Sensory Difficulties 

Several therapies can help improve sensory difficulties in children with SPD: 

  • Occupational therapy: Focuses on developing functional skills and improving sensory processing 

  • Sensory integration therapy: Helps children better process and integrate sensory input 

  • Applied behavior analysis (ABA): Aims to improve socially significant behaviors, including behaviors that may stem from sensory challenges 

  • Speech therapy: Addresses communication difficulties that may be related to sensory issues 

  • Cognitive behavior therapy: Helps children develop coping strategies for sensory challenges 

The appropriate therapy or combination of therapies for your child will depend on their specific needs and challenges. 

A therapist pushing a young girl on a therapy swing.

Strategies to Manage Sensory Issues 

There are several strategies that can help children with SPD:   

  1. Creating a sensory-friendly environment: Adjusting lighting, noise levels, and furniture to minimize sensory triggers 

  2. Offering sensory dietary choices and alternatives: Offering a variety of textures and flavors to accommodate sensory preferences 

  3. Using sensory tools and equipment: Providing items such as weighted blankets or fidget toys to provide calming sensory input 

  4. Implementing sensory coping mechanisms for sensory overload: Teaching deep breathing exercises or provide a quiet space for the child to retreat to when overwhelmed 

  5. Implementing a “sensory-motor lifestyle”: This means incorporating plenty of opportunities for movement activities throughout your child’s day 

By understanding sensory issues and implementing appropriate strategies and therapies, you can help your child navigate their sensory world more effectively.