Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD,  is when the “brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through our senses” (Web MD). This is usually identified in children but can also be seen in adults. According to Matlen, “SPD is a neurological condition that does not allow for normal processing of stimuli.” Oversensitivity to things in the environment such as loud noises, ticking clocks, strong fragrances, tags on a shirt, etc, can be painful or overwhelming. It can affect one sense or multiple senses. You can either be hypersensitive or hypo-sensitive to sensory stimuli.  If symptoms interfere with your daily life or affect normal functioning you may have SPD.

Sensory issues are usually present in those diagnosed with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, motor delays, or anxiety disorders. Children with SPD, can be severely affected by sensory preferences that it interferes with their engagement in activities. Some children may exhibit over sensitivity to some stimuli while some may exhibit under sensitivity to other stimuli. For example, a child may scream at a sound of someone tapping their pen, while the same child may not respond to the sound of thunder. A change in routine or  the wrong shoes can ruin a day. Certain smells or food textures can cause a gag response to kids with SPD. Some symptoms of hyper and hypo-sensitivities to stimuli are found below:

Hypersensitivities may include:

  • fearful of crowds
  • avoids standing close to others
  • may be distracted to background noise that others do not hear
  • extreme response of fear to high, loud noises that seem unoffensive to others
  • refuses to wear new or stiff clothes
  • will be distressed to dirty hands
  • distressed by clothes rubbing on skin

Hyposensitivities may include:

  • A need to touch people or textures even when it is inappropriate to do so
  • high tolerance to pain
  • does not understand personal space
  • does not understand his or her strength
  • uncoordinated movements
  • enjoys movement base play
  • mouths objects excessively
  • touches textures that are soothing

How do you manage with the above symptoms? Begin by recognizing and identifying sense triggers and find ways to limit them. In other words, make a plan. Find an occupational therapists to help with hypersensitivities in children. You can also visit where you can read more about SPD and search providers who work with children and adults. Below are some ways to manage some of the sensitivities that you may have:


  • Wear loose fitted clothing that is tag free
  • Chose clothing with natural fibers
  • Shake hands if hugging is uncomfortable


  • Use ear plugs if the noise is loud or bothers you
  • Use white noise machine
  • Wake up earlier than others to finish work in a quiet environment


  • If certain smells are offensive, boil a pot of spices
  • Keep a fragrant sachet with you in order to mask offending smells
  • Wear a scarf that you can cover your nose if a smell bothers you


  • Wear sunglasses if sunlight bothers you
  • Shop online if malls are overwhelming. Shopping on line can help with the visual clutter of malls
  • Take breaks if you need to go to the mall. Find a quiet place to recharge your sensory tank


  • If certain food textures bother you, consider pureeing some foods
  • Use sensitive toothpaste for gagging reflexes
  • Schedule dental appointments in the afternoon because gagging reflexes are usually worse in the morning.

How do you manage some sensitivities that you may have?





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    Last reviewed: 7 Aug 2014

APA Reference
Nieves, H. (2014). Do You Have Sensory Processing Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 31, 2015, from



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