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Sensory processing disorder – Symptoms, Types

This is a condition in which the brain has trouble to receive and respond to the information which comes in through the senses. Previously, this disorder was called sensory integration dysfunction. Nowadays, it is not recognized as a distinct medical diagnosis.

There are some people with sensory processing disorder who are oversensitive to things in their environment. The common sounds may be overwhelming or painful. Also the light touch of a shirt can chafe the skin.

Other people who have sensory processing disorder can:

  • Be hard to engage in conversation or play
  • Not tell where his or her limbs are in space
  • Bump into things
  • Be uncoordinated

Usually, the sensory processing disorders are identified in children. But also there are some cases when these disorders can affect adults. It is noticed that the sensory processing disorders are commonly seen in the developmental conditions like autism spectrum disorder. The sensory processing disorder is not recognized as a stand – alone disorder but many experts think that it should be recognized as one disorder.


Sensory processing disorder

The sensory processing disorder can affect the taste, touch or hearing of some people. But also there are some cases when it can affect multiple senses. Affected people can over- or under- responsive to things they have difficulties with. The symptoms of sensory processing disorder exist on a spectrum, like many illnesses. There are some cases when some children who when listen the sound of a leaf blower outside the window, dive under the table or it causes them to vomit.

Also these children can scream when they are touched. Children with this disorder can recoil from the textures of certain foods. On the other hand, there are other children who seem unresponsive to anything around them. They may fail to respond to extreme cold or heat or even pain. It is noticed that many children who suffer from sensory processing disorder start out as fussy babies who become anxious as they are growing older. These children do not handle change well. These children may have meltdowns or frequently throw tantrums. There are many children who have some of the mentioned symptoms from time to time. Doctors are usually diagnosing the sensory processing disorder when the symptoms become severe enough to affect the normal functioning of children and disrupt the daily activities.

Causes: The exact cause for the sensory processing disorder is not known. There was one study done in 2006 in which twins were tested and it was noticed that the hypersensitivity to sound and light may have a strong genetic component. There are other studies in which are shown that children who suffer from sensory processing disorder have abnormal brain activity when they are simultaneously exposed to light and sound. Also there are other studies in which are shown that children with sensory processing disorder will continue to respond strongly to a stroke on the hand or loud sound while other people will get used to these situations for very quick time.


Here are some subtypes of sensory processing disorder:

  1. Sensory modulation disorder: Those children who have this type of sensory processing disorder have problems regulating the nature and intensity of responses to sensory input. Here are some symptoms of this subtype:
  • Oversensitivity to sounds or visual stimuli
  • Strong preferences to certain types of clothing, including textures and fit
  • Avoidance of chaotic textures, such as dirt or lotion
  • Not willing to brush teeth and hair and cutting nails
  • Gagging and refusal to eat textured foods
  • Withdrawing from light and unexpected touch
  1. Sensory discrimination disorder: Children who have this subtype have problems assigning and discerning proper meaning to qualities of particular sensory stimuli. Here are some symptoms:
  • Poor sense of movement speed
  • Poor balance
  • Difficulty manipulating an object when out of sight
  • Uses too much or too little force
  • Problems finding an image in a cultured background
  • Difficulties following directions
  1. Postural – ocular disorder: These children have problems with stabilizing or controlling the body during movements or at rest. Here are some symptoms:
  • Difficulty isolating head – eye movements
  • Poor equilibrium and balance
  • Poor posture control or strength
  • Tires easily
  • Discomfort climbing or fear of heights
  • Avoidance of upper extremity weight bearing
  1. Dyspraxia: Affected children have a deficit in their abilities to execute, sequence or plan unfamiliar actions. Here are some symptoms:
  • Poor articulation
  • Trouble performing activities of daily living
  • Poor fine motor coordination
  • Accident – prone and clumsiness
  • Poor playing activities
Ramesh Kumar
Ramesh Kumar
Dr. Ramesh kumar, BAMS is naturopathy doctor who is well versed with health benefits of all fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants


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