Sensory Processing Disorder or Dysfunction, also known as, Sensory Integration Disorder is a neurological disorder involving smell, hearing, pain, body position, taste, visual, temperature, and the body’s position and movement. In short, the brain receives all this stimuli but can’t make sense of it so it reacts normally.
Linda C. Stephens, MS, OTR, in an article entitled “Sensory Integrative Dysfunction in Young Children” stated, “The ability to attend to a task depends on the ability to screen out, or inhibit, nonessential sensory information, background noises, or visual information.”
Here are a few examples from my own experience:
I seem to take in all stimuli and not filter them out. I’ll say, “That noise is horrid” while others in the room will say, “What noise?” They were focused on listening to each other or watching and listening to the TV. They filtered out the “extra” noises, whereas I don’t.
When we go out and go sing karaoke, I usually ask the karaoke announcer to turn down the treble. If it is too high, I’ll feel frozen and wanting to escape, my head will start to pound, all the other noises will seem super loud, I feel confused, and I find it hard to focus on what people are saying to me.
And that’s just noise. Add in the other senses and I can be quite confused, agitated, angry, and frightened, or I have already left the room.
Who gets it?
Many places on the internet will say the disorder affects children with no mention of adults. But, the disorder has only been growing in acceptance lately, so adults with SPD were never diagnosed as children. They may or may not have learned to deal with the stimuli better than they were when they were children or, they continue to be affected. Occupational therapy clinics that offer Sensory Integration Therapy are seeing a growing number of adults seeking treatment.
Often Sensory Processing Disorder will be present with conditions such as Autism, Asperger Syndrome, ADHD, and others. But, SPD can and does exist in people who do not have any other conditions.