Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Written by Tricia Au

Why is SPD important to know?

Our nervous system receives and processes messages from our senses (taste, tactile, sight, smell, sound, vestibular, proprioception and interoceptors). Once the messages have been processed, it will be sorted out into appropriate motor and behavioural responses.

So when does SPD occur? It happens when there is an absence of sensory signals and appropriate responses are not regulated properly. It is crucial to identify if your child may be showing signs of SPD in order to provide the appropriate support and guidance to your child.

How is SPD important?

Try imagining the morning traffic jam happening in your nervous system. Sounds hectic right? The occurrence of a “traffic jam” obstructs certain parts of the brain that are receiving information used to translate sensory information.

Understanding SPD can help you better comprehend why your child may be behaving or reacting differently. Children with SPD often face challenges processing and responding to the information received through their senses. This acts as a barrier for children with SPD especially when they are required to complete tasks. For instance, they may face behavioural issues, anxiety, depression, motor clumsiness, etc.

Recognising SPD in itself is important but learning more about the subdivisions of SPD is crucial in broadening your understanding on how to identify an intervention plan best suited for your child.

What are some symptoms of SPD?


  • My infant/toddler is extremely irritable when I dress him or her, seems uncomfortable in clothes

  • My infant/toddler rarely play with toys especially ones with different texture

  • My infant/toddler has difficulty shifting focus from one activity to another

  • My infant/toddler does not notice pain or is slow to response when hurt

  • My infant/toddler resists cuddling, arches back away from the person holding him

  • My infant/toddler has a “floppy” body, bumps into things and has poor balance

  • My infant/toddler is extremely active and is constantly moving body/limbs or runs endlessly

  • My infant/toddler can’t calm self by sucking on pacifier, looking at toys, or listening to my voice

Pre-school age

  • My child has difficulty being toilet trained

  • My child is overstimulated, overreacts or does not like touch, smell, noice, etc

  • My child is unaware of being touched/bumped unless done with extreme force/intensity

  • My child seems unsure how to move his/her body in space, is clumsy and awkward

  • My child has difficulty learning new motor skills

  • My child gets into everyone’s space and/or touches everything around him

  • My child is intense, demanding or hard to calm and has difficulty in transitioning

  • My child has sudden mood changes and temper tantrums that are unexpected

  • My child seems weak, slumps when sitting/standing; prefers sedentary activities

  • My child does not seem to understand verbal instructions


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