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Diagnoses: Sensory Processing Disorder

13 January, 2012

Sensory processing describes the way one’s brain interprets and uses the information provided by the senses (the usual five plus proprioception and vestibular senses). Our senses work together to give us a reliable picture of the world. A sensory processing disorder means that the information provided to the brain is unreliable, inconsistent or in another way significantly different from the way others perceive the same thing.

There are three different classifications of sensory processing disorder. The first is Sensory Modulation Disorder. It involves the way the central nervous system organises the way it responds to input. A person with SMD may be under- or over- responsive to sensory inputs (or a combination). The second type is Sensory-Based Motor Disorder. People with SBMD tend to have postural challenges, and fall over a lot. The final category is Sensory Discrimination Disorder. People with SDD have difficulty determining the correct pressure to apply to something (such as crushing an egg by gripping it too tightly or dropping a glass because they are not holding tightly enough).

The world can be a frightening place when what your senses are telling you can’t be trusted. Children with SPD, especially Sensory Modulation Disorder may come across as extremely fussy (refusing to wear anything other than one particular brand of t-shirts or only eating vegetables cooked in a certain way) or they may be seen to chuck tantrums at inappropriate ages or over inappropriate things, have a low frustration threshold or have a poor sense of personal space. They may be fidgety and disruptive in a classroom setting.

We have at least two confirmed cases of SMD in our home and I believe we have at least one more, although it can sometimes be difficult to determine when diagnoses overlap.

I have Sensory Modulation Disorder although it took me until I was an adult to work out what was going on. My children would be noisy (just normal kid noise) and I couldn’t cope. I would end up shouting at them because I couldn’t even think with all that noise. Now I have recognised that it is a sensory issue I can do more about it, to help myself to cope and to help the kids understand. I can apologise to them when I react in appropriately and I can work on improving the environment and my health so that my tolerance threshold is higher. My SMD is one of the reasons our home is basically devoid of battery operated toys. ;-).

If you want to know more about SPD, SMD or sensory issues I can thoroughly recommend the book Raising A Sensory Smart Child by L. Biel and N. Peske, or look at their website

I just finished reading the book (as my book of the month for January). I found it quite helpful although I have worried somewhat about the implications of this disorder for my children and how they will cope with the situations they will face in their lives. However, this book is helping to give me the tools to help my own sensory processing problems and support my children. I really recommend it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Danielle permalink
    20 January, 2012 4:37 pm

    Thanks, Liz. This post is really helpful. I’m really enjoying your website, too. And your children are beautiful. I love the main photo.

    • 20 January, 2012 5:05 pm

      Thanks Dee. I’m hoping to use my blog for good and if I can increase awareness of some of these conditions, then I will. ūüôā


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