What is Sensory Processing?

“Sensory processing disorder (originally called "sensory integration dysfunction" or SID) refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses" according to the STAR center. It is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. Unfortunately, vestibular seekers are frequently misdiagnosed as having ADHD and prescribed medicine instead of referred to a trained occupational therapist. There are still many medical and educational professionals that do not understand Sensory Processing Disorder and most public school systems are still poorly equipped to handle a child with SPD's needs appropriately. The information on this page is meant to provide an overview of SPD, it is a vast topic that I am hoping to simplify enough to provide you a better understanding based upon my experience with it and how it affects our son. I have included a few pictures and charts to explain some of the information as well as a breakdown between seeker and avoider behavior.

It is believed that approximately 1/3 of all children with apraxia also have SPD in some degree. Overall, studies suggest that anywhere between 5% to 16% of children exhibit some symptoms of SPD. For us SPD can be a non-issue for a vast part of the day and in the blink of any eye it can all change. The noise in a restaurant, his shoes, our dogs barking, jeans (oh how he hates jeans) it truly depends on the day and the moment. That is what can make SPD so difficult (and its exhausting). If you'd like to read about our personal journey with SPD click The Family Struggle: Global Apraxia and SPD

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In the summer of 2015 we chose to attend the STAR Center in Denver, Colorado for several weeks and learned a tremendous amount during our time. Some of it is highlighted below. We returned in December of 2016 for a "booster" program to zero in on a few things we have been dealing with.

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This is a picture (above) of my son (age 4) at the STAR Center in Denver, Colorado July 2015 working with his OT. He loves climbing but this task was extemely hard for him. The headset is part of the ILS system (he hates it) but it has done wonders for other familes I have been told. The picture below is from December 2016 (age 5) as you can see he has really worked to overcome some of his sensory battles. He was determined to make it up that wall no matter how much he hated the way it felt! Proud Momma moment!

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The STAR Center is leading the pack (in my opinion) regarding research on Sensory Processing Disorder. "Our current knowledge suggests that there are six subtypes of SPD. Almost all individuals with SPD have a combination of symptoms from more than one subtype. The chart below shows the three major patterns and the six subtypes of SPD." The chart is by Carol Stock Kranowitz author of the Out-of-Sync Child and Dr. Lucy Miller founder of the STAR Center. It provides a good visual to help you understand how some SPD types and sub-types co-occur.Subtypes of SPD

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It was surprising for me to learn that a child can exhibit tendencies from each category. Below I have provided a comparison for reference and placed an asterisk (**) next to the ones that my son struggles with so you can get a better idea of what SPD can look like.

This is not a comprehensive list, rather a guide for general education.

Vestibular Seeker

• Always moving – rocking, running, jumping**
• Lack of safe boundaries**
• Difficulty walking place to place, “needs” to run, even short distances**
• LOVES Roller-coasters, merry-go-rounds, swings, and trampolines**
• Enjoys “crashing” into things**
• Under responsive to pain (abnormally high pain tolerance)**
• Wants, almost “needs” to touch everything**
• Seeks loud noises
• Often misdiagnosed as ADHD
• Loves deep pressure – big hugs, weighted blankets**


• Toe Walker**
• Hates dirty diapers or underwear**
• Avoids messy activities – finger painting, sand box, shaving cream
• Terrified of loud noises – hand dryers, public toilets, fireworks, emergency vehicles**
• Avoids being touched or touching
• Extremely sensitive to tags in clothes, seams in socks or shorts
• Sensitive to light**
• Over responsive to pain (very low pain tolerance)
• Hates bath time, washing hair, washing their face or hands
• Hates brushing their teeth

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