Special needs parenting

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder: Recognizing Its Symptoms

May 7, 2023

As parents, caregivers, educators, and therapists, we all want to ensure that children receive the best possible care and support. However, when a child experiences sensory processing disorder (SPD), it can be challenging to understand their behavior and provide them with the appropriate care. In this blog post, we will explore what SPD is and how it affects children’s lives. We will also discuss the most common symptoms of SPD, how it is diagnosed, and practical tips for managing the symptoms.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the brain has difficulty receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. This can include sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and movement. Children with SPD may experience sensory overload or sensory seeking behavior.

Sensory overload occurs when a child’s brain becomes overwhelmed by sensory input. For example, a loud noise may feel painful or frightening to them. Sensory seeking behavior occurs when a child actively seeks out sensory input to satisfy their needs. For example, they may enjoy spinning around or jumping on a trampoline.

Children with SPD may also experience tactile defensiveness, which means they are overly sensitive to touch. They may avoid certain textures or fabrics and become upset if touched unexpectedly.

In some cases, children with SPD may also have auditory processing disorder or visual processing disorder. Auditory processing disorder means they have difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments or differentiating between similar sounds. Visual processing disorder means they have difficulty interpreting visual information accurately.

The Most Common Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder

The symptoms of SPD can vary widely from person to person but generally fall into two categories: hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity.


Children with hypersensitivity may experience:

  • Overreaction to loud noises
  • Avoidance of certain textures or fabrics
  • Becoming upset if touched unexpectedly
  • Dislike of getting messy or dirty
  • Difficulty with bright lights or busy environments
  • Becoming easily overwhelmed by too much sensory input


Children with hyposensitivity may experience:

  • Craving for intense sensory experiences such as spinning, jumping, or crashing into objects
  • Lack of awareness of pain or temperature changes
  • Limited reaction to loud noises or bright lights
  • Tendency to touch people or objects excessively
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills such as tying shoelaces or holding a pencil properly
  • Poor balance and coordination

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, it is important to seek professional help. An occupational therapist can provide an evaluation and develop an individualized treatment plan.

Diagnosing Sensory Processing Disorder

The diagnosis of SPD involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional, typically an occupational therapist. The evaluation will involve a detailed history and observation of the child’s behavior in different situations.

The healthcare professional will also use standardized assessments to evaluate the child’s sensory processing abilities. These assessments may include the Sensory Processing Measure, Sensory Profile, and Sensory Integration and Praxis Test.

Treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder: Sensory Integration Therapy and Sensory Diet

Treatment for SPD typically involves occupational therapy, which focuses on addressing the sensory processing challenges that the child is experiencing. Occupational therapists use sensory integration therapy to help children improve their ability to process and respond to sensory input.

Sensory integration therapy involves providing a variety of sensory experiences in a controlled environment to help the child learn to process sensory input more effectively. The therapy may involve activities such as swinging, jumping, and playing with different textures.

In addition to sensory integration therapy, occupational therapists may also recommend a “sensory diet.” A sensory diet is a set of activities that are designed to provide the child with the right amount of sensory input throughout the day. This may include activities such as using a weighted blanket, playing with playdough or slime, or doing yoga poses.

Practical Tips for Managing Sensory Processing Disorder Symptoms

If your child has been diagnosed with SPD, there are several practical tips you can use to help manage their symptoms:

  • Create a routine: Children with SPD often thrive on routine and predictability. Try to establish a consistent daily routine that includes time for sensory activities.
  • Provide a calm environment: Children with SPD may become overwhelmed by noise or visual clutter. Try to create a calm environment at home by reducing noise and minimizing visual distractions.
  • Use deep pressure: Deep pressure can be calming for children with SPD. Try using weighted blankets or vests or giving your child a firm hug when they are upset.
  • Allow for sensory breaks: Provide opportunities for your child to take breaks during the day when they feel overwhelmed. This might include taking a walk outside or spending time in a quiet space.
  • Be patient: Remember that children with SPD may need more time and support than others. Be patient and understanding as they work to manage their symptoms.


Sensory processing disorder can be challenging for children and their families. However, with the right support and treatment, children with SPD can learn to manage their symptoms effectively. If you suspect that your child may have SPD, it is important to seek professional help. An occupational therapist can provide an evaluation and develop an individualized treatment plan.

By following the practical tips provided in this blog post, you can help your child manage their symptoms and thrive in their daily lives.