#277 - 10 Facts About Sensory Processing Disorder

by Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC October 11, 2023

#277 - 10 Facts About Sensory Processing Disorder

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10 Facts About Sensory Processing Disorder

October is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Awareness Month.

SPD is a condition that affects how the brain processes and responds to sensory information from the environment and the body.

Individuals with SPD may have difficulty regulating and interpreting sensory input, such as touch, sound, taste, smell, and movement. This can lead to challenges in daily life, affecting their ability to engage in activities, interact with others, and navigate their surroundings.

SPD can occur in both children and adults and is often seen in conjunction with other conditions such as autism,, ADHD, or developmental delays.

It is important to note that SPD is not officially recognized as a standalone diagnosis in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but it is commonly acknowledged and studied within the field of occupational therapy and sensory integration.

In this episode, we dive into 10 facts about SPD, including what type of disorder it is, who can struggle with it, comorbidities, and more!

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Ep 248 Will My Child Grow out of SPD?

Ep 13 Should I Get My Child a Diagnosis?

Ep 231 Sensory Integration Basics


10 Facts About Sensory Processing Disorder

"Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder" by Lucy Jane Miller is a captivating book that delves into the intriguing world of sensory processing disorder (SPD). This insightful read presents fascinating facts and insights about SPD, making it a highly recommended choice for new therapists, parents, teachers, or anyone embarking on their sensory journey.

Fact #1: SPD Is A Complex Brain Disorder

Sensory processing disorder has an impact on both children and adults during their developmental stages. When we receive sensory information from our environment, this information is transmitted to our brain.

Our brain processes sensory information, enabling us to comprehend and generate adaptive responses. However, in the case of SPD, these signals to and from the brain may become jumbled or even missed, disrupting overall functioning.

Fact #2: Assessing For SPD Is Possible

Various methods are employed to identify children with SPD, including parent surveys, clinical assessments, and laboratory protocols. Within the clinic setting, standardized tests and checklists are utilized to evaluate a child or client's ability to process sensory input.

Checklists such as these offer invaluable insights for parents, teachers, or anyone seeking to comprehend these requirements. Standardized tests and sensory checklists are vital in improving effectiveness in clinical settings.

Fact #3: 1 In 20 Experience Sensory Processing Challenges

Sensory processing disorder is a commonly misunderstood condition that affects many individuals. Whether we are therapists, parents, or teachers, we must acknowledge the significance of early identification and intervention to provide the necessary support.

Fact #4: SPD Is Common In Neurodivergent Individuals

Research shows a higher prevalence of sensory processing disorder in certain groups of children, such as gifted, ADHD, autism, and fragile X syndrome. Also, children who have experienced trauma, have Down syndrome, developmental delays, or retained primitive reflexes are more likely to be affected.

Fact #5: SPD Physiology Compared To Neurotypical Children

In neurotypical children, sensory experiences are automatically filtered and organized by the brain without much effort. However, in children with SPD, the brain may become overwhelmed by sensory input, leading to an overload of information.

This can result in either a hyper-responsive or hypo-responsive reaction to sensory input. For example, a child with SPD may be hypersensitive to touch and avoid physical contact, while another may seek excessive stimulation.

Fact #6: Comparing SPD Physiology To ADHD

ADHD is often misunderstood as a condition where children struggle to sit still, focus, and pay attention. While this is partly true, it's essential to recognize that ADHD is an executive functioning disorder impacting the brain.

In contrast, SPD is a disorder that affects the brain's sensory processing and integration. However, it's not uncommon for children with SPD to also have ADHD.

Fact #7: SPD Has Unique Sensory Traits

Individuals with sensory processing disorder display unique sensory characteristics that cannot be attributed to any other diagnosis. These characteristics encompass challenges in sensory modulation, discrimination, and registration.

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) may exhibit these traits in various ways, highlighting the importance of recognizing and understanding them to provide appropriate support. Noteworthy sensory attributes include heightened sensitivity to specific textures or sounds, difficulties with transitions, a preference for seeking movement and tactile experiences, and struggles with self-regulation.

Fact #8: Genetics And SPD Connection

When a parent frequently faces sensory processing challenges, likely, the child will also experience similar or different sensory difficulties. These disparities often result in conflicts and additional challenges within the home environment.

Certainly, genetics plays a significant role in this matter. It is highly beneficial for parents to understand their own sensory needs, as it empowers them to provide better support for their child's comprehension and management of their sensory systems.

Fact #9: SPD And The Constant State Of Fight Or Flight

A child with sensory processing disorder may experience a heightened sense of fight or flight. This response can occur when a stimulus from the environment is perceived as threatening or overwhelming.

As a result, this can lead to behavioral responses such as meltdowns, tantrums, and avoidance. Parents and therapists need to recognize these behaviors as an expression of their sensory needs rather than simply "bad behavior".

Fact #10: Intervention For SPD

Occupational therapy is a highly effective intervention for individuals of all ages facing challenges with sensory processing. It is crucial to acknowledge that sensory processing disorder, rooted in neurological factors, cannot be cured. However, with proper therapy and support, individuals can learn to manage their sensory challenges and develop coping strategies to thrive in everyday situations.






While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC
Jessica Hill, COTA/L & Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC

Rachel Harrington, COTA/l, AC, CPRCS, and Jessica Hill, COTA/L, CPRCS are Harkla's in-house Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA) and Certified Primitive Reflex Clinical Specialists. They have been working with children for over 6 years in outpatient settings. They specialize in creating easy-to-digest, actionable content that families can use to help their child's progress at home. Jessica and Rachel are the in-house experts, content creators, and podcast hosts at Harkla! To learn more about Jessica and Rachel, visit the Harkla About Us Page. Make sure to listen to their weekly podcast, All Things Sensory by Harkla for actionable, fun advice on child development.

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