Sensory Processing Disorder

We Receive and Perceive Sensory Input through Sights, Sounds, Touch, Tastes, Smells, Movement and Balance, Body Position and Muscle Control. Difficulty taking in or interpreting this input can lead to devastating consequences with:

  • interactions with others
  • daily functioning
  • social and family relationships
  • behavioral challenges
  • regulating emotions
  • self-esteem
  • learning

Sensory Processing Disorder also commonly known as Sensory Integration Disorder is the inability to use information received through the senses in order to function smoothly in daily life. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks.


  • A genetic or hereditary predisposition.
  • Prenatal circumstances such as chemicals, medications or toxins that the fetus absorbs
  • Prematurity or low birth weight
  • Birth trauma
  • Postnatal circumstances such as environmental pollutants
  • Unknown causes


SPD is on a continuum. At the far end of the continuum, many people with autism have sensory processing issues, further complicating their profound difficulties with learning, communication and relationships. Also along the continuum, are those with ADHD, Asperger syndrome and other pervasive developmental delays.


Once children with Sensory Processing Disorder have been accurately diagnosed, they benefit from a treatment programs of Occupational Therapy (OT) with a Sensory Integration (SI) Approach.

This typically takes place in a sensory-rich environment sometimes called the 'OT gym'. During OT sessions, the therapist guides the child through fun activities that are subtly structured so the child is constantly challenged but always successful.

The specific goals of Occupational Therapy using a sensory integration approach are to improve the child’s social participation, self-esteem, self-regulation and sensory motor abilities. Over time, the appropriate responses generalize to the environment beyond the clinic including home, school, and the larger community. Effective occupational therapy thus enables children with SPD to take part in the normal activities of childhood, such as playing with friends, enjoying school, eating, dressing, and sleeping.

Ideally, occupational therapy for SPD is family-centered. Parents are involved and work with the therapist to learn more about their child’s sensory challenges and methods for engaging in therapeutic activities sometimes called a 'sensory diet' at home and elsewhere. The child’s therapist may provide ideas to teachers and others outside the family who interact regularly with the child. Families have the opportunity to communicate their own priorities for treatment.


A balanced sensory diet is a planned and scheduled activity program that the occupational therapist develops to meet the needs of a specific child’s nervous system. Its purpose is to help the child become better regulated and more focused, adaptable and skillful. A sensory diet includes a combination of alerting, organizing and calming activities.

In addition to the information provided above, the following internet resources may also be helpful:-