What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and what are its potential causes and effects on children's development?
Sensory integration is the neurological process that organizes sensations from one’s own body and the environment into useable information. Basically, we filter and process information from the outside and also from inside our own bodies (STAR Institute, 2023). Our ability to process sensory data usually doesn’t require conscious thought. We don’t have to concentrate on smelling, tasting, or seeing, for example.
Pioneering OT Dr. Jean Ayres (1979) likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. Put differently, SPD is an irregularity or disorder in brain function that makes it difficult to integrate sensory input efficiently (Galina-Simal et al., 2020).
Among other things, children with SPD often have developmental motor disorder and experience difficulty with gross and fine motor tasks (O’ Gallagher, 2023). For example, my son Mark didn’t walk until he was almost 1.5 years old. He couldn’t zip up his jacket, tie his shoes, or kick a ball until he was older than most children. These children often appear clumsy.
Several different factors, including genetics, maternal substance abuse during pregnancy, birth trauma, viruses, and lack of environmental stimulation, can cause SPD. Other possible causes include prematurity and neurological disorders (STAR Institute, 2023).
This ATE is an excerpt from the course 20Q: Sensory and Fine Motor Activities for Children with Communication and Sensory Processing Disorders, authored by Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin, PhD, CCC-SLP, F-ASHA.