When this is the case, many practitioners will make a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder, and will recommend Sensory Integration Therapy. Sensory Integration Therapy is generally provided by an Occupational Therapist.
It's important to know that Sensory Processing Disorder …
- IS NOT an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic Manual
- Is NOT a core deficit of autism or autism spectrum disorders
- Is NOT a fully accepted concept throughout the medical mainstream (The American Association of Pediatrics states: "Occupational therapy using sensory integration techniques to address sensory processing problems is commonly used in children with ASD. Although many believe occupational therapy is subjectively effective in educational and clinical settings, research data to support its effectiveness is scant. Occupational and physical therapy may be helpful in addressing coordination and motor planning deficits occurring in some children with ASD."
- Sensory processing refers to our ability to take in information through our senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, and hearing), organize and interpret that information, and make a meaningful response. For most people, this process is automatic. We hear someone talking to us, our brains receive that input and recognize it as a voice talking in a normal tone, and we respond appropriately.
Children who have a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), however, don’t experience such interactions in the same way. SPD affects the way their brains interpret the information that comes in; it also affects how they respond to that information with emotional, motor, and other reactions. For example, some children are over-responsive to sensation and feel as if they're being constantly bombarded with sensory information. They may try to eliminate or minimize this perceived sensory overload by avoiding being touched or being particular about clothing. Some children are under-responsive and have an almost insatiable desire for sensory stimulation. They may seek out constant stimulation by taking part in extreme activities, playing music loudly, or moving constantly. They sometimes don’t notice pain or objects that are too hot or cold, and may need high intensity input to get involved in activities. Still others have trouble distinguishing between different types of sensory stimulation.
American Association of Pediatrics. Technical Report: The Pediatrician's Role in the Diagnosis and Management of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Children. PEDIATRICS Vol. 107 No. 5 May 2001, p. e85.
Miller, Lucy Jane, Ph.D. Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Overview of Sensory Processing Disorder from the Knowledge in Development Foundation website.