What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Common signs and treatments for SPD.
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Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, affects at least 1 in 20 people and is a complex brain condition where nervous system sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses, according to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation. SPD can vary in intensity and the senses involved, with some people being over- or under-responsive to triggers.

"We may see difficulty with outbursts, emotional regulation and misbehaving; difficulty learning or paying attention; or delays in developmental milestones," says Brianne Kurcsak, a Novant Health Rehabilitation Center occupational therapist. "Parents may wonder why their kids don't like texture of sand, or are picky about their clothes or foods they eat."

While a cause is still unknown, SPD occurs more often in people who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, anxiety disorders or fragile X syndrome.

"Treatment is very personalized and can range from as short as four to six weeks to a few months or longer," Kurcsak says. "The dangers are parents who try to treat SPD on their own or kids who simply aren't treated. People may think their child has grown out of an issue. They may learn to tolerate something, but if the senses aren't properly integrated it can cause problems later."

Kurcsak recommends parents look for behavioral patterns and an occupational therapist with extensive sensory training. "If you think something isn't quite right, push for an answer."