Sensory Processing Disorder
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly called “sensory integration disorder”) is a condition where sensory messages (taste, touch, visual, auditory) aren’t signaled to the brain correctly. This can cause children to have inappropriate motor and behavioral reactions to sensory stimuli. It is as if these children’s brains are wired differently in how they process sensory information. SPD was initially pioneered by occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD. She compared SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly.
It is estimated that 1 in 20 children suffers from some form of significant sensory processing issue. This can be a wide variety of problems including oversensitivity to lights, odors, noises, touch, balance, and taste. In children who are gifted and those with ADHD, Autism, and Fragile X syndrome, the prevalence of SPD is much higher than in the general population.
Some children have an over reactive response to sensory input, while others can have an extremely under-active response to sensory stimulation including a lack of reaction to pain, heat and cold.
Appropriately integrating sensory information is critical for children to accomplish everyday activities that we take for granted like eating, riding a bike, or wearing certain textured clothing. Watching a movie in a theater, with loud noises and a variety of visual stimuli, can be overwhelming. Here in Phoenix, Ariz., there is an organization that helps provide Sensory Friendly Films local movie showings that are sensory friendly for children with SPDs.