The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation explains sensory processing as "the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses." Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), formerly known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction, occurs "when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses."
Signs of SPD. Sensory Processing Disorder is most commonly diagnosed in children. Symptoms may include an adverse reaction to touch, no response to hot or cold sensations, or a lack of good posture and motor skills. Keep in mind the following if you suspect that you or someone you care for has SPD:
- Most individuals who have the disorder do not experience all the symptoms.
- Those with the disorder may not experience difficulties every day. Inconsistency is a hallmark of neurological disorders.
- The disorder manifests itself in both oversensitivity and undersensitivity.
Emotional impact of SPD. Because SPD often affects motor skills and other processes necessary for success in school and life, many children with the disorder become isolated or even depressed. The resulting lack of self-esteem can lead to an inability to make friends, fit into a group and to be labeled as clumsy, uncooperative, belligerent, disruptive or out of control.
Causes of SPD. As with many neurological disorders, the exact cause of SPD has yet to be discovered. Researchers have concluded that the disorder is most likely inherited and the cause is genetic. There may also be a connection between birth and prenatal complications and SPD. Odds are that SPD results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Treatment of SPD. There is no correlation between IQ and SPD. Those with the disorder are as likely to be as intelligent as their peers, but because their brain functions differently, it is necessary to develop strategies for processing information differently. The earlier SPD is diagnosed, the better. Once diagnosed with SPD, the patient would most likely work with an occupational therapist in a sensory rich environment with a goal of helping the patient respond to sensation in an active, meaningful and fun way.