Sensory Processing Disorders

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Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses…a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly (Ayers, 1999).

Hypersensitive 

(Sensory Avoider)

This is the most common type of sensory disorder

 

The brain does not process environmental stimuli to a level of tolerance.

 

This induces fear and the student’s reaction is a

fight or flight response.

Hyposensitive 

(The Sensory Seeker)

 

Sensory information is perceived muted and as a result the student can tolerate and may crave greater amounts of stimulation.

 

This may result in a “thrill seeker”

Characteristics of Each 

Hypersensitive

Hyposensitive

  • extreme response to sounds

  • notices background noises that others ignore

  • avoids touch, hugs, and cuddling

  • avoids others, especially crowds

  • overly frightened of moving playground equipment

  • afraid of climbing or having feet off the floor (must feel grounded)

  • off balance, frequently falls

  • avoids wet/sticky – limited diet

  • mouths lots of things

  • licks smooth surfaces

  • bites

  • ignores speech

  • stares at lights

  • brings everything close to eyes

  • watches TV for extended periods even at night

  • frequently looks disoriented

  • clumsy uncoordinated

  • harms others

  • fidgety

  • high pain threshold (safety)

Students may have characteristics of both.

Hypersensitive 

(student that needs calming)

Classroom accommodations that provide sensory input

 

  • listening to classical music, steady drums, or nature sounds using weight (per OT suggestion)

  • weight bearing and isometrics

  • pushing feet against something

  • erasing dry erase board

  • dimly lit room and sparsely decorated walls with cool colors

  • chewy snack foods (fruit roll ups, bagels, etc.)

  • chewy jewelry

  • spandex clothing, if appropriate for school

  • holding weighted item

  • stress ball, squeeze ball, resistive toy

Hyposensitive 

(student that needs stimulation)

Classroom accommodations that provide sensory input 

 

  • motor breaks during school - stand and stretch, run an errand for teacher, walk to bathroom, etc.

  • lean on desk for “desk push-up”

  • climbing playground equipment; crossing monkey bars

  • drinking grapefruit, cranberry or other tart juice - try partially freezing it

  • pretzels, carrots, apples, granola, and other crunchy foods

  • fidget items, especially fidget pencils

  • brightly colored or lit settings