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Sensory Processing disorder- Symptoms, patterns, therapies

19 April, 2022 Ananya das

Sensory processing disorder (SPD), as the name suggests, is a neurological disorder where the brain's sensory processing gets affected. Usually, this disorder is found among children, and it makes them either over-sensitive or not at all sensitive toward the stimulus. But adults can also suffer from this disorder. The only thing is that the symptoms of SPD found in adults don’t develop during adulthood but might have existed since childhood but had remained unnoticed.

Each stimulus you experience results from how your brain coordinates with each sensory input, like light, touch, sound, taste and smell. But in patients with SPD, their sense of experiencing these sensory inputs is affected, and hence, they fail to act accordingly. Though research is still going on in the field of SPD to find out more about it, not much is still known. In this article, let us know some recognizable signs of SPDs, their patterns and how to help in these conditions.


Generally, it is not difficult to recognize the warning signs of SPDs, but the only thing is that very much attention is required to notify them. In people with SPDs, the main sign recognized is how they process the sensory information. Based on whether they are suffering from over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity, the symptoms may vary.

Some of the symptoms found in a person having over-sensitivity toward stimuli are:

  • Strong reaction toward smell, sound and light
  • Gets startled very easily
  • Gets overwhelmed with situations, places or persons
  • Tries to avoid normal social contacts

Some of the symptoms that are commonly found in people suffering from under-sensitivity toward stimuli are:

  • Having a very high tolerance toward any form of physical pain
  • Showing clumsy, uncoordinated and frequent movements
  • Make contact with things repeatedly to understand the actual thing

If you observe any of these symptoms in your child, then be alert. This can be an effect of any sensory processing disorder. Unless recognized early and treated early, these symptoms can develop severe problems with stimuli in the future. So, be extra attentive every time whenever you are with your child.

Patterns of sensory processing disorders

Basically, sensory processing disorders are classified into three broad patterns. These patterns are distinguished based on the type of behaviour found in the patients of each of these patterns.

The ways in which a person is affected by each kind of pattern are mentioned below.

Sensory modulation disorder: In this pattern of SPDs, the person will showcase difficulty in responding to sensory stimuli. Either they under-respond to the generated stimuli, or they over-respond to any stimuli.

Sensory-based motor disorder: This pattern of SPDs affects the motor skills of an individual. They find it difficult to balance their motor coordination and perform all their routine and non-routine sudden tasks. Just for understanding, we can take an example that they fail to recognize or sense their normal limb position.

Sensory discrimination disorder: People suffering from this pattern of sensory processing disorder fail to understand the stimuli. They can’t figure out how to respond to particular stimuli. This in turn, results in them failing to handle any situation.

How to help after recognizing the symptoms of SPDs?

Even after you recognize the warning signs of sensory processing disorder, it is difficult to get cured. This is because at present no such medication is found that can cure the disorder. So, doctors prescribe therapies that are suitable for the condition. These therapies aim to improve the sensory balance and spatial awareness of an individual by balancing sensory inputs via a mixture of activities.

Some of the commonly used therapies for the purpose are mentioned below.

Occupational therapy: In this form of therapy, the child is made to do things that they usually avoid doing. The therapist tends to engage the child in a mixture of activities to stimulate his/her senses. These efforts help improve their response and thus makes them understand certain stimulus.

Sensory integration therapy: Use of sensory integration therapy, children are taught the ways to respond to stimuli using their senses. It includes many activities specifically designed to make them understand the experience of different forms of incentives. Though these activities are helpful but not many results are observed using them. Hence, more and more research is still going on to find out more appropriate treatment options.