Sensory Processing Disorders

We learn through our senses. What we see, hear, touch and what we experience through the perception of movement from our joints and muscles ae our foundations for learning.

Sensory Integration theory is a way of looking at how the brain and the body work together to process sensory stimulation. Jean Ayers, 1994

Neurosensory Integration

Neurosensory Integration is the ability to take in and process and organize and integrate sensory information so that we feel comfortable and secure. We can then respond appropriately to given situations, commands, and demands so that proper academic, social, emotional. And motor learning can occur.

Essentially, input needs to equal output. As parents, teachers, doctors and health providers, when this does not occur automatically and in a timely manner, we too become frustrated.

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 three senses that are rarely heard about: Vestibular, Proprioceptive, and interoceptive senses.

The Vestibular system has its function housed in the upper cervical spine (neck), the inner ear, and base of the brain or Cerebellum.

This is why upper cervical care in children with SPD is so important. Structure dictates function. When cleared out with a gentle adjustment, alignment helps regulate and clear the signals to this area of the spine and brain. Then the Nervous system can settle down into more of a Parasympathetic, rest and digest mode (rather than Sympathetic – or upregulated)mode of being.

The proprioceptive system sends messages to the brain through the joints of the legs and arms and spinal joints. The Interoceptive system

Sends messages to the brain about the state of internal organs in order for proper physiological responses to take place like knowing when the bladder is full, often an issue with bedwetters.

Some people with SPD feel bombarded with sensory information coming in and are often overwhelmed and always in a self-defense mode. Some people feel like they are in “fight or flight”. Our modern times with so many inputs coming in ie,(from cell phones alone can keep us in that kind of loop especially with notifications turned on loud!).

Even children without cell phones, just sitting in a class room can be overwhelming.

When overwhelmed, there is ‘acting out’ behavior or inappropriate behavior seen. Some will seek out sensory experiences so much that it becomes inappropriate. It depends on what’s perceived to be needed by the brain.

SPD can lead to behavioral problems, difficulty with coordination or attention, learning disorders, low self-esteem and a variety of other issues.

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 (ASD).

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 the messages due to a disconnection in the nerve cells. 2. Sensory messages are received inconsistently. 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, social, and or emotional output is the result.

HYPO-sensory versus HYPER sensory

Hypo-sensory individuals are like a really big cup of tea that has a hole at the bottom and you just cannot fill them up. They do not have enough sensory input coming into the brain in order to properly register what their body is doing or how they are to respond to a given command or demand.

HYPER-sensory individuals are like a very small cup which will spill over with just one more drop added and so the whole cup drops and spills out.

Neurosensory Dysfunction and Co-existing Diagnoses

The following is a list of diagnosis’s that are often found in conjunction with SPD:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Down Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Traumatic Brain Injury or Post Concussive Syndrome
  • Fragile X Syndrome
  • Mental Retardation
  • Premature Birth
  • Substance Abuse Babies
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • “Emotionally Disturbed”
  • Conduct disorder
  • OCD
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder

by Dr. Monika Buerger reprinted with permission

Along with these Sensory processing difficulties, there can be Primitive Reflexes from early infancy still operating in many of these children and adults. Testing these and clearing them in children has been a joy for me since studying this 5 years ago with Dr. Blumenthal in Los Angeles.

For testimonials please see,
Dr. Laura Sheehan