What Are Sensory Processing Issues?

A sensory processing problem is often associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADHD, however it can be much broader than that. Sensory processing is a term that refers to a person’s nervous system receiving and interpreting information that is received by the senses and translating it into “appropriate motor and behavioral responses”[1]. When the sensory signals in the brain don’t get organized appropriately, the individual’s brains finds it difficult to process and respond to the incoming stimuli. According to occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, this is often referred to as a “neurological traffic jam that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly[2].”  This can result in over or under response, and interfere with relationships, motor coordination, school performance, and completing basic routines. A 2009 study estimated that 1 in 6 children experience a sensory processing disorder that affects multiple areas of their daily life[3].

So do we approach treatment from a mind or brain perspective? Those two options are often the only ones considered… after all it is a neurological connectivity problem, right? What about the physical limitations that sensory processing difficulties affect? We frequently talk about the heart-mind connectiveness which influences the type of treatment that we seek, but we often leave out the body component. All three of these elements of self are interconnected, and all three are equally affected by something as significant as a sensory processing disorder. Occupational Therapists (OTs) are health providers that are often not considered resources to call upon when children or adults struggle with a sensory processing disorder. But these disorders affect activities of daily living (ADLs), and efficiently executing ADLs is what OTs specialize in. In the attached fact sheet you will find the interventions OTs can address across the developmental lifespan through neuroscience-based interventions. To honor the whole person and the entirety of the disorder they suffer from, don’t forget to approach treatment in an integrative way.

Jordan Huber, Birch Psychology



[1] http://www.spdfoundation.net/about-sensory-processing-disorder/

[2] http://www.spdfoundation.net/about-sensory-processing-disorder/

[3] Ben-Sasson, A., Carter, A. S., & Briggs-Gowan, M. J. (2009). Sensory over-responsivity in elementary school: prevalence and social-emotional correlates. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 37(5), 705-716.