Sensory integration is how the central nervous system receives messages from the senses. The information gets used by an individual so he can process behavioral or motor response. Since there’s a lot of bombarded information from the five senses, the nervous system needs to organize it so that a person’s reaction matches the signaling message.
Pioneering psychologist, occupational therapist, and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D. likened this dysfunction to a “neurological traffic jam that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly.”
Therefore, when there is sensory processing dysfunction, neural signals tend to tangle and become unorganized. The term sensory processing disorder or SPD is not currently recognized as mental health or medical condition that stands on its own. That’s the reason why people won’t find it listed on any diagnostic manuals.
“The disorder, however, isn’t officially recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. Instead of its own disorder, many doctors and experts believe sensory issues are a component of another condition or disorder.” Karen Richardson Gill, MD, FAAP, explains.
So, what is it? What are the damages it can do to a person? How can we treat it?
All About The Condition
When an individual experiences a sensory processing disorder, he will not be able to respond to his senses immediately. There is a tendency that the individual can get confused about what he’s hearing, tasting, seeing, touching, and smelling. Everything becomes extremely overwhelming. In some case of events, the condition may only affect one sense. But it can also harm many senses as well. And every person with the disorder may react and behave differently depending on their sensory dysfunction. There is a collection of different intensity and responses to stimuli. With that, some individuals may or may not have an overreaction to stimuli. Overreaction includes throwing a tantrum, vomiting, screaming, and an outburst. And with those people with under-reaction, they will barely respond or feel physical touch or may not cover their ears when there’s a loud noise around. The condition supports both over and under responses. Therefore, not every individual is going to act the same.
The condition is way too complicated than most people think. That’s perhaps the reason why it mainly gets attributed to ASD or autism spectrum disorder. With that, many professionals believe that this information needs to change and should be included in diagnostic manuals as a stand-alone condition. Though in general, a lot of its symptoms are relatable to various phobias, misophonia, ADHD, schizophrenia, PTSD, and even borderline personality disorder. With that, it is essential to note that the condition is not something that all professional health experts can easily understand. Therefore, it’s best to find someone who knows and specializes in sensory issues along with its types.
The Types Of Sensory Processing Disorder
- Sensory Discrimination Disorder – It is the type of sensory processing disorder that contains difficulty in accurately identifying qualities of stimuli. Individuals with this state may use little or too much force when doing something. Most of the time, they break something without realizing that they exerted too much strength. Some may also struggle in picking items, particularly in a cluttered area. Some may even move too slow or too fast in doing certain activities.
- Sensory Modulation Disorder – It is characterized by an individual’s struggle to regulate the intensity of response to sensory stimuli. Meaning, a person with this condition tends to hate textures in some food; they sometimes hate brushing their teeth and find it uninteresting to manage their hair. Note that the things they often hate are not at all upsetting to most people. Usually, only these individuals view, smell, feel, and see common things differently.
- Postural Ocular Disorder – It is a state where a person struggles to manage visual and bodily movements. Therefore, an individual has a hard time balancing their body, tracking items in their eye line, and strive to control the amount of strength needed in completing a specific task. There are also cases that a person may not identify which of his hands are dominant and which is not.
- Dyspraxia – It’s a sensory processing dysfunction that makes a person struggle with planning, scheduling, and executing things in sequence. It entirely makes everything complicated and hard to do daily. It gets difficult to move to a specific task to another due to less excellent motor coordination.
As for the cause of SPD, people and experts don’t know. Therefore, extensive research and study must be done to understand the condition thoroughly.
“Symptoms are apparent in only about ten percent of the population and two percent may show severe symptoms. There is no cure for dyspraxia but an early diagnosis and therapy means greater chances of improvement,” Dr. Ananya Mandal, MD, reveals.
Fortunately, there is a recommended treatment available to manage the disorder. There’s occupational therapy where it encourages rehabilitation through the focus of an individual’s performance of activities. With that, it creates a better and meaningful engagement that helps sustain a person’s daily life.