Sensory processing refers to the way in which our brain interprets, organizes, and creates an appropriate response to information that comes from our senses.
Most people are aware of their senses of sight (visual), hearing (auditory), touch (tactile), taste (gustatory), and smell (olfactory). However, there are three more senses: vestibular (position in space/balance), proprioception (body/muscle awareness), and interoception (internal sensations). Although we often think of our senses as separate processes, the brain integrates information from all the senses to provide us with an accurate picture of our environment and our place in that environment.
Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) occurs when an individual has trouble interpreting, organizing, and/or responding to information that comes in through the senses. SPD can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to succeed at developmental tasks such as meaningful play, academic achievement, and positive interactions with family and peers.
Sensory processing issues affect people of all ages and abilities. Even though an individual may have 20/20 vision, his brain may not accurately process the input from his eyes. Many people with diagnoses such as attention and learning problems, developmental delays, autism spectrum disorders, and neurological disorders also have sensory processing issues. Sensory Processing Disorder can also stand alone with no other diagnosed disorders.
SPD can affect the way in which a person modulates his response to sensory input, how he discriminates between different sensations, and/or how he controls his body movements (as a response to sensory input). Common examples include:
- Over-responding to certain textures, sounds, or movement
- Under-responding to, or difficulty registering, hot/cold temperatures, unusually high pain tolerance, not responding when name is called
- Actively seeking sounds or movement in a way that interferes with life activities
- Difficulty discriminating between sounds, resulting in mishearing words
- Looks around the room frequently, appearing inattentive
- Poor endurance / low muscle tone
- Appears clumsy – bumps into things, poor balance
- Gross motor (walking, running, jumping, skipping) and fine motor (tying shoes, buttoning, coloring) delays
- Difficulty planning motor movements
- Poor self-esteem and low tolerance for frustration
- Difficulty interacting with same-aged peers