Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sensory Processing Disorder

Recommendations from IAN families -

Books for parents:

Books for kids:

From The Center for Adoption Medicine:
Sensory integration dysfunction (DSI), or as it is currently known, sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a complicated, somewhat controversial disorder of "sensory processing" - the ability to take in, filter, and respond appropriately to sensory input (touch, movement, vision, hearing, taste, and smell). Some children are felt to be "sensory-avoiding", or "sensory-defensive" - feeling bombarded by overly intense experiences of touch, lights, sound, and so on. Some children are "sensory-seeking", or "sensory under-responsive" - seeking intense stimulation, bashing and crashing around, and seeming less aware of pain and touch. Some children have trouble using sensory inputs to plan and perform gross and fine motor tasks ("dyspraxia", or motor planning disorder).

SPD is one of those diagnoses where definitive research on prevalence, validation of diagnostic tools, and effective therapy is lacking. It's especially hard to know when normal developmental, temperamental, and other individual differences in sensory responsiveness becomes a "disorder". It's underdiagnosed in many arenas, and overdiagnosed in others, just like any disorder where convenient but unvalidated checklists proliferate on the web, and where "cottage industries" marketing products and treatments are competing for your parental attention and money.

Having worked with a lot of post-institutionalized and alcohol-exposed children (two populations that are at higher risk for SPD), I am convinced that there are many such children for whom SPD is a real disorder - one that significantly impairs their function in home, social, and school environments. And I've seen children respond well to occupational therapy (OT) sensory interventions, especially functional approaches that integrate sensory work with the child's needs in motor skills and social interactions.

Even if your child's issues are more reflective of developmental immaturity or individual temperament than a definitive disorder, the sensory approaches can be fun, stimulating, and helpful with self-regulation and self-soothing. It's still hard to convince insurers and schools to fund such interventions, and depending on your situation, sensory-based therapy may not be the most pressing use of your time and money ... but here are some good resources on the topic. A lot of interventions are ones that you can do at home, and while there are scads of nifty products marketed for SPD, you can get a lot done with simple, cheap, or home-made tools and toys.

Sensory Processing Disorder Resources:


Stefan said...

You may be interested to check out the Free Sound Therapy Home Programme available from Sensory Activation Solutions. Their Auditory Activation Method builds on the pioneering work of Dr. Alfred Tomatis (Tomatis method) and Dr. Guy BĂ©rard (Auditory Integration Training) and has been specifically developed with the aim to improve sensory processing, interhemispheric integration and cognitive functioning. It has helped many children and adults with a wide range of learning and developmental difficulties, ranging from dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder to sensory processing disorders and autism. It is not a cure or medical intervention, but a structured training programme that can help alleviate some of the debilitating effects that these conditions can have on speech and physical ability, daily behaviour, emotional well-being and educational or work performance.

There is no catch, it's absolutely free and most importantly often effective. Check it out at:

Hartley said...

What beautiful children! As the mom of an adopted child with SPD I wanted to introduce you to the book on Sensory Processing Disorder that I wrote, This is Gabriel Making Sense of School. You can find it on or -- I hope it helps you and your children, along with MANY more!

Thank you for helping spread SPD awareness,