How to recognize sensory processing disorder?

If you are a parent, you’ve probably heard at least once about the sensory processing disorder. It’s a relatively new concept naming a set of symptoms that occur in 16% of children. What is it and how can you recognize if your child has it?

What is sensory processing disorder?

Firstly, it’s not the same thing as ADHD or autism. Some symptoms characteristic of sensory processing disorder, otherwise known as SPD, can accompany these disorders, but if your child has SPD, it doesn’t mean he or she is autistic.

Children suffering from SPD usually have a different white matter in their brains than healthy children. This leads to difficulties in sensory processing, which means that a child’s brain has trouble recognizing and ordering information gathered by the senses. Let’s have an example to make it clear: Jack is oversensitive to bright colours and bright light. If he’s in a brightly lit room, he may start to fidget, get anxious, or even cry and throw a tantrum. This is because his brain can’t process the information from his sense of sight and this is causing Jack a lot of stress.

How to recognize it?

Be open-minded. Don’t just assume that your child is naughty if she behaves badly in a crowd or if she’s grumpy in the mornings or in the evenings. If your child does badly at school, don’t assume he is lazy or unintelligent – find out if he’s oversensitive or undersensitive to any part of school environment. Whenever your child throws a tantrum, think back if there were any stressors in her surrounding that might have caused it.

Sensory processing difficulties can be treated with physiotherapy. Don’t despair – the first step is to know the illness. The next step is to treat it.


  1. Donna

    My daughter had SPD but she’s a teenager now and she copes really well. But we had some tough times, and she had to go to physio for almost five years.

  2. Sarah

    I thought my child was just a little demon… But maybe that’s what’s wrong with him.


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