Your child may have friends at daycare or preschool who struggle with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), or you may know families who are going through the difficult process of ascertaining whether their child has SPD, and finding effective therapies for him or her. You may have even noticed symptoms of SPD in your own child, and have wondered if looking into SPD further might be helpful for your little one.

SPD is a condition which occurs when a child’s sensory signals are not organized properly. Some professionals have likened SPD to a traffic jam, which makes it difficult for the brain to receive the sensory signals which allow it to respond in an appropriate manner to sensory information. If a child has SPD, she might find it difficult to take in loud noises, stimulating lights, or the feel of clothing or shoes that aren’t completely soft and smooth. What’s more, a study shows that 1 in 20 children have SPD, and other research suggests that as many as 1 out of every 6 children has difficulty functioning occasionally due to sensory challenges.

Wondering if your child might be struggling with SPD? If your child is an infant or toddler, the diagnosis can be tricky, as many of the symptoms can be common among those in that age group. Difficulty eating and trouble falling asleep are both symptoms. Symptoms also include discomfort getting dressed, a tendency not to respond to pain, an easily triggered startle response, poor balance, and delays in crawling and walking. Preschool age children have their own challenges, including difficulty toilet training, an inability to learn fine motor tasks such as using crayons and markers or fastening buttons on clothing, a tendency to be unaware of physical boundaries and how her movements affect others, and difficulty forming speech which others can understand clearly.

If your child is struggling with some of these symptoms, speak with his pediatrician and with your childcare provider about what they have noticed about his behavior. If he is struggling with many of the aspects of everyday life due to these symptoms, an occupational therapist can evaluate him to determine whether or not he has SPD and where he falls on the spectrum of SPD difficulty, and can offer a treatment plan that may help your child learn to cope with the sensory challenges that make daily life so difficult for him.