Coined a "neurological traffic jam"by neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D., Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurological condition in which external and internal sensory is poorly detected, modulated, or interpreted. This results in emotional, behavioral, social, attentional, or motoric challenges.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

All children have sensory issues, but a child struggling with SPD presents symptoms that impact normal day-to-day functions.

Sensory Issues present in a variety of ways, including:

  • shoes, coat or clothes too tight

  • frequently crashing into walls or people

  • easily irritated by textures, sounds or smells

  • unusually low or high pain threshold

  • oversized reaction to a change in environment

  • excessive clumsiness or difficulty with fine motor skills

Patterns of SPD

Although SPD is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) as a separate disorder, there is no argument that sensory processing issues affect 80% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and up to 60% of children with ADHD. ​Regardless of the ongoing debate, many experts support the theory that SPD is a standalone disorder and currently impacts 1 in 20 children.

Research indicates there are 3 primary patterns of SPD, further broken down into 6 subtypes. Most individuals with SPD display more than one subtype, i.e, a child sensitive to loud noises can simultaneously crave other stimuli.

  • Sensory Modulation Disorder: Over or Under Responsive, or Craving Sensory

  • Sensory-Based Motor Disorder: Difficulty with Stability and/or Movement

  • Sensory Discrimination Disorder: Difficulty Determining or Detecting Stimuli


Helpful resources include our ADHD Kids Journal and ADHD Survival Kit, both of which also address issues specific to Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), anxiety and gifted/2e.

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