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What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Chiropractors help children

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a complex disorder of the brain that affects developing children as well as adults. Individuals with SPD misinterpret everyday sensory information received from the five senses: touch, vision, sound, smell, and taste. In addition, there are two senses that are rarely heard of; the vestibular and proprioceptive senses. The vestibular system has its function housed in the upper cervical spine (neck), the inner ear, and the base of the brain (cerebellum). The proprioceptive system sends messages to the brain from information received from the spinal joints and all other joints of the body.

Some people with SPD feel bombarded by sensory information and are often overwhelmed. While others seek out sensory experiences and often may act out inappropriately. SPD can lead to behavioral problems, difficulties with coordination or attention, learning disorders, low self-esteem and a variety of other issues.

It is estimated that as many as 1/20 children may suffer from SPD! Contributing Factors of SPD Include:

  • Environment
  • Toxicity Exposure
  • Birth Trauma
  • Breech Birth
  • Cesarean Section Birth
  • Hereditary
  • Retained Primitive Reflexes
  • Overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system
  • Spinal Subluxations

Children with SPD are often misunderstood and labeled as aggressive, clumsy, inattentive, or “difficult”. They may also be diagnosed as having ADD/ ADHD, or other diagnosis’s under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder. SPD can also co-exist with these disorders as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and others. The neurological disorganization resulting in SPD occurs in three different ways: 1) the brain does not receive messages due to a disconnection in the nerve cells 2) sensory messages are received inconsistently; or 3) sensory messages are received consistently, but do not connect properly with other sensory messages. When the brain processes sensory messages poorly; inefficient motor, academic, or emotional output is the result.

Properly functioning vestibular and proprioceptive systems are two key components in developing a healthy sensory processing system. Because these two sensory systems have functions that are regulated by input from spinal areas, it is essential that children and adults with signs of SPD be evaluated by a family wellness chiropractor for vertebral subluxations (misalignments) of the spine that may be causing interference within the brain and sensory systems.

Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder

TOUCH

Tactile input is important in determining ones behavior. Inadequacies in processing tactile input can lead to a difficult time with activities of daily living, poor student performance due to difficulty manipulating objects such as pencils or scissors, and/or poor peer interactions due to inadequate modulation of tactile sensations. Children that have difficulties processing tactile sensory input may appear:

  • Anxious
  • Controlling
  • Aggressive
  • Avoids touch or craves touch
  • Dislikes or avoids messy play such as finger
    painting
  • Appears irritated by certain clothing (e.g. tags in shirts) or food textures
  • Appears irritated when someone is in close proximity
  • Often appears very active or fidgety
  • Has difficulty manipulating small objects
  • Uses his/her hands to explore objects
  • Often puts objects in mouth

SMELL 

Children that have sensory processing disorder of smell may be susceptible to allergies; especially environmental allergies. They may exhibit an excessive need to smell toys, items, or people. Or, they may not like new clothes, toys, or furniture because of the smell. Their behavior or health may deteriorate after cleaning house due to the toxic effect of the cleaning chemicals.

TASTE

Children that have sensory processing disorder of taste may be “picky eaters”. They may also exhibit “pica” which is the act of eating non edible items such as chalk, crayons, dirt, etc.

AUDITORY

Children w/auditory processing disorder may demonstrate some of the following:

  • Become upset w/loud or unexpected noises
  • Hum or sing to screen out unwanted noises
  • Are easily distracted by loud noises
  • Enjoys loud sounds and repeats them several times
  • Has difficulty w/clothes that make noise
  • Has difficulty w/verbal prompts
  • Covers ears frequently
  • Speaks in loud voice to screen out incoming noise
  • Notices, or is bothered by environmental noises that most would screen out (e.g. refrigerator, air conditioner, ticking clocks).

VISUAL

Children with sensory processing disorder of the visual system may exhibit some of the following:

  • Difficulty going down stairs
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Pain, watering, discomfort when required to perform visual work
  • Inability to read without losing place
  • Rubbing eyes after use
  • Frequent headaches or stomachaches after visual work or school
  • Difficulty copying
  • Inability or difficulty reading aloud

VESTIBULAR

The vestibular system helps regulate all of the other sensory systems; dysfunction here will likely lead to dysfunction in other systems as well. Children with vestibular processing disorder may have a history of repeated ear infections and/or ear tubes. They may also display some of the following:

  • Avoidance of movement; especially head movement
  • Head banging
  • Motion sickness
  • Avoidance of merry-go-rounds or roller coasters
  • Excessive watching things spin or excessive spinning themselves
  • Inability to read/write in cursive
  • Dizziness/nausea caused by watching things move
  • Hearing problems
  • Inability to sustain listening without moving or rocking
  • Problems with balance
  • Difficulty walking on uneven surfaces
  • Has the need to move fast

PROPRIOCEPTION

Children with proprioceptive processing disorder may demonstrate some of the following:

  • Need to be held, swaddled, and snuggled
  • Unusual need to have physical contact with another person; clinging
  • Hysteria over washing hair or pulling shirts over the head
  • Avoidance of eyes closed activities
  • Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
  • Sleep walking/falling out of bed
  • Extreme restlessness while sleeping
  • Need for heavy covers or clothing or back pack to feel grounded
  • Need to have light on to sleep
  • Avoidance of team sports
  • Aversion to crowds
  • Clumsiness, tripping over own feet, bumping into things
  • Difficulty grasping mathematical concepts
  • Inability to accept physical and social boundaries
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Get Moving Chiropractic
3045 Whitman Drive #102
Evergreen, CO 80439
(303) 670-7777

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