Sensory Processing Disorder Symptoms: What to Look For

At Project Play Therapy, we understand that every child is unique and experiences the world in their own special way. However, for some children, processing sensory information can be challenging. This can lead to a condition known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Today, we’ll delve into what SPD is, its symptoms, and how we at Project Play Therapy can support your child and your family through this journey.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition where the brain has trouble receiving and interpreting information from the senses. This can make ordinary experiences overwhelming and can affect a child’s ability to perform daily activities, socialize, and learn. SPD can affect one or more of the senses, making it a complex and unique experience for each child.

Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder

Understanding the signs of SPD can help you determine if your child might benefit from professional support. Keep in mind that these symptoms can look different in each child and may not always indicate SPD, but noticing them is a first step towards understanding your child’s sensory experience.

Overly Sensitive to Sensory Stimulation:

Children with SPD may be hypersensitive to sensory experiences. They may react intensely to noises that others barely notice, feel uncomfortable with certain textures of clothing, or be overwhelmed by bright lights. They may also be very picky eaters due to sensitivity to the texture or taste of certain foods – mashed potatoes might be too “mushy” or toast might be too “crunchy.” Because their senses are hyperactive, they might be startled or distressed by relatively quiet sounds like a ticking clock, or may refuse to wear clothing with certain fabrics because they find the sensation unbearable. 

Under Responsive or Slow to React: 

Alternatively, SPD can cause children to be under-responsive to sensory inputs. For example, they might not respond when their name is called, even when it’s not a noisy environment. They may seem indifferent to physical touch or not notice when their clothes are twisted, or their shoes are untied. They might not react to significant temperature changes, feeling neither too cold in winter nor too hot in summer. 

Motor Skill Difficulties:

Children with SPD may have difficulty with balance, movement, and coordination. They might seem clumsy, such as frequent tripping while walking, or difficulty catching a ball. They often have trouble with tasks that require fine motor skills like buttoning a shirt, tying their shoelaces, or using utensils while eating.

Challenges with Sensory-Based Tasks:

Children with SPD might find tasks that involve using their senses difficult. For example, they might struggle with locating where a sound is coming from – they might frequently turn their head the wrong way when their name is called. They might also have trouble using their sense of touch to identify objects; for instance, finding a specific item in their backpack without looking or doing a puzzle might be challenging for them.

Social and Emotional Challenges:

The challenges faced by children with SPD can sometimes lead to social and emotional struggles. They might find it hard to fit in with their peers, perhaps because they react differently to the same sensory experiences. For instance, they might become overly distressed during a noisy birthday party, or they might avoid playground activities that other children enjoy due to their SPD. These challenges can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, or anxiety.

How Project Play Therapy Can Help

If you recognize these symptoms in your child and they’re persistent, know that you are not alone. At Project Play Therapy, our team of experienced occupational therapists will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to understand your child’s sensory experiences and needs.

Should your child require it, we can create a personalized therapy plan to strengthen their sensory processing abilities. Our approach is centered on play, the primary occupation of children, making therapy a fun and positive experience.

Early intervention can greatly improve outcomes for children with SPD. If you have any concerns about your child’s sensory processing, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Together, we can help your child thrive and reach their fullest potential.