Sensory Processing Disorder-Sensory Integration Dysfunction

What is Sensory Processing Disorder / Sensory Integration Dysfunction?

Some children don’t behave as we expect them to – not because they won’t, but because they can’t. Inefficient processing of sensory messages that come from their body and environment often cause this unexpected behaviour. These children may withdraw from physical contact, refuse to participate in typical classroom and playground activities, or respond in an unusual way to ordinary sensations such as touch, movement, sights and sounds.

Sensory Processing Disorder is the most recent term used for a condition that was first recognised in the 1960s by Dr A. Jean Ayres, an American occupational therapist and neuroscientist. It was originally called sensory integration dysfunction or sensory integration disorder. Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration Dysfunction interferes with the way children process the sensations coming from their body and the world around them. It interferes with learning, playing, and communicating with others.

Most of us are born with the ability to constantly manage sensory messages and organise them into the right, organised response or behaviour.For children with Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration Dysfunction the sensory signals don’t get organised into appropriate responses and the child’s daily activities and social interactions are disrupted.

"First person I have seen who understands children with sensory processing problems."


Children with Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration Dysfunction may present with some of the following difficulties:

  • Avoids touch or being touched by objects and people
  • Has difficulty standing in line or close to other people
  • Dislikes having hair, fingernails or toenails cut
  • Avoidance of certain textures
  • Touches people and objects to the point of irritating others
  • Seeks out all kinds of movement and this interferes with daily routines (eg can’t sit still, fidgets)
  • Spins/twirls self frequently throughout the day
  • Takes excessive risks during play
  • Fear of heights and movement
  • Distress with certain sounds
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Aversion to certain smells and tastes
  • Disregard of sudden or loud sounds
  • Unaware of pain
  • Unaware of body sensations such as hunger, hot or cold
  • Lack of attention to environment, persons or things
  • Has coordination problems
  • Has difficulty planning motor tasks

Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration Dysfunction is a surprisingly common problem with at least 5% of the population being affected. It is a hidden condition which is often poorly understood. It may coexist with other conditions such as:

  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Attachment Disorders
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Dyslexia (Specific Learning Difficulties)
  • Dyspraxia/Developmental Coordination Disorder
  • Fragile X Syndrome

Early intervention is advisable for treating these problems before they interfere with the child’s learning and behaviour. Children respond well to early intervention when their brains are developing rapidly and their neurological systems are most able to change.

Assessment of your child

Once commissioned we will carry out a comprehensive assessment in order to identify the extent and nature of your child’s difficulties. We will use a combination of standardised and observational assessments to identify specific areas of difficulty. We will select those assessments that we feel are most appropriate for your child, following an initial discussion with you. Following the assessment we will arrange a feedback appointment to discuss the results, offer you advice and recommend therapy options that may be appropriate.

Please contact us if you would like any further details.

Therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration Dysfunction

Sensory integration therapy focuses on your child and their sensory needs.  Your child will be guided by the therapist through activities that challenge their ability to respond appropriately to sensory input. Training of specific skills is not the focus of the therapy, instead the focus is on the underlying sensory processing problems that prevent your child from carrying out a skill successfully.

Intervention may involve one or more of the following options:

  • Consultation with parents and teachers
  • Individual therapy
  • Sensory programmes for home and/or school
  • Environmental modifications
  • Providing awareness training at your child’s school

Useful links for information on Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration Dysfunction

Visit our links and resources page for further information on Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration Dysfunction.

links2Common conditions treated: