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Sensory processing differences and disorder (SPD)

Support members with Sensory processing differences and disorder (SPD)

What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition where people are much more or less sensitive to what they hear, see, smell, taste or touch.  

Many people have sensory processing differences - this may be as part of another condition or independent of this. Sensory processing issues can also affect balance and movement. Things like bright lights and noises can cause behaviours that challenge, that are out of the individual’s control. People with sensory processing disorder/difference may also seek out sensations e.g. being hugged or spinning to seek movement. Young people might be under sensitive to some stimulation and over sensitive to others, at different points of the day and times. 

When considering the senses, on top of the five main senses there are three main sensory systems to be considered: 

Touch (tactile)

This can impact, differentiation between hot and cold, dressing in different fabrics, playing with different toys and eating different foods. 

  • Those who seek more input may suck and mouth objects, scratch or pinch, and seek different tactile experiences.
  • Those who are oversensitive may avoid certain foods or clothes. They may dislike having face washed, personal contact or getting messy hands. 

Movement (vestibular)

This is where the body responds to movement in space and changes in head position. It gives children information about how they are moving through a space. 

  • Children who seek input with this system often seek using swings and trampolines. They may rock their bodies or seek more rough play.
  • Those who are oversensitive in this area may constantly sit on the floor, resist movement and hold onto others.

Body position (proprioception)

This sensory system gives us awareness of our body position. It allows us to move our arms and legs without looking at every movement e.g. keeping our balance. 

  • Those who seek more input engage in more movement than expected, clap hands and jump around.
  • Those who do not register this sensory input may seek physical contact and bump into things.