What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or Trastorno del Procesamiento Sensorial (TPS, en español) occurs when the central nervous system is unable to adequately interpret and organize the information captured by the five senses (touch, smell, taste, hearing and vision). ). This disability affects, to a great extent, the integral functioning of people. Neuroscientist Anna Jean Ayres, a pioneer in the study of sensory integration, likened SPD to a "neurological gridlock" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD has difficulty processing and acting on information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing myriad daily tasks such as sleeping, eating, or performing successfully at school or work. The ability to socialize or take proper care of oneself is also affected, generating behavior problems, anxiety, depression, isolation, school failure, among many other problems.

In Puerto Rico there are no accurate statistics on people affected by SPD. However, scientific studies such as those by Ahn, Miller, Milberger, McIntosh (2004) and Ben-Sasson, Carter, Briggs-Gowen (2009) highlight that at least 1 in 20 children or 1 in 6 children, respectively, experience Sensory problems that affect aspects of your daily functions.


Causes of Sensory Processing Disorder 


The causes of Sensory Processing Disorder are the subject of ongoing research. However, preliminary research suggests that the causes of SPD are encoded in each person's genetic material. Prenatal and birth complications as well as environmental issues are also noted as possible factors.


How to identify SPD?


This condition can be identified and categorized by an occupational therapist specializing in sensory processing and integration. However, the first signs of sensory deficiency are usually detected at home or school.

A more comprehensive evaluation to identify SPD involves standardized tests, detailed clinical observations, and parent and school reports. The evaluation process may also include physical exams, speech/language evaluation, hearing exam, psychological evaluation, and possibly other tests. A multidisciplinary evaluation is essential to rule out other related disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, anxiety disorder, etc.


SPD - Warning Signs

Being alert to possible signs of SPD in infants or young children is essential.

An early diagnosis leads to early intervention and maximizes the chances of a better future.


Babies and toddlers
  • Trouble eating or sleeping

  • Refusal to leave with someone other than their mother

  • Irritability when dressing it; discomfort with clothes

  • Rarely plays with toys

  • Resists hugs

  • Arches when held

  • Can't calm down

  • Loose or stiff body

  • Motor delays


  • Overly sensitive to touch, noise, smells, or other people

  • Difficulty making friends

  • Difficulty dressing, eating, sleeping, or going to the bathroom

  • Clumsiness, poor or weak motor skills

  • It's always in constant motion

  • Frequent or short-tempered tantrums


elementary students
  • Overly sensitive to touch, noise, smells, or other people

  • Is easily distracted or overwhelmed

  • It's always on the go

  • Aggressiveness

  • Difficulty with handwriting or motor activities

  • Difficulty making friends

  • Unaware of pain


Adolescents and adults

  • Overly sensitive to touch, noise, smells, or other people

  • Poor self-esteem; fear of failing at new tasks

  • Slow in daily activities

  • Is always on the go, impulsive, or distracted

  • Leaves incomplete tasks

  • Clumsiness, slowness, poor handwriting or motor skills

  • Little concentration

  • Demotivation, never seem to get joy out of life

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