What is Sensory Processing?

Sensory processing refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. For example, your body responds a certain way when you tell it to turn a doorknob or shake a hand.

What is Sensory Processing?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition where sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. SPD affects the way a child processes messages sent to his or her brain from any of the five main senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. He or she often cannot handle sensory stimulation and often fixates on a single event or activity as a coping mechanism for SPD.

Whether children or adults have been formerly diagnosed, sensory processing challenges are becoming more commonplace with several studies show at least 1 in 20 children’s daily life is affected by SPD (Ahn, Miller, Millberger, McInstosh 2004). A more recent study published in 2009 suggested that as many as 1 in every 6 children experiences systems that impact everyday life functions (Ben-Sasson, Carter, Briggs-Gowen, 2009).

Two of the lesser-known senses that can be affected by SPD are the vestibular and proprioceptive systems. These systems detect incoming sensory information and then deliver it to the brain. Vestibular refers to movement sensations like riding a roller coaster. The proprioceptive system provides information to the muscles and joints. This systems helps you walk up stairs or jump with a jump rope.

If these systems aren’t communicating to the body, the responses get jumbled. The person and rightly so becomes frustrated because he/she is not able to tell the body what to do.

When it comes to sensory processing, no two children and situations are alike. No two cases are the same. Doctors and researchers are still figuring out the ins and outs of Sensory Processing, making it difficult to understand which is why it’s best to talk to a medical expert to develop a sensory processing plan that is customized and unique to you.