How do you Treat
Sensory Processing Disorder?

Rogers Bridge » How do you Treat Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition that impacts the brain’s ability to process different sensory information or different stimuli. This disorder may impact all senses, several senses, or it may impact one sense. SPD can cause individuals to be overly sensitive or under-sensitive to stimuli.

(Related Reading: What is Sensory Processing Disorder?)

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SPD impacts a person’s ability to participate in everyday activities. While individuals without SPD can filter out everyday distractions like the hum of the refrigerator, a tag on the inside of a shirt, or can brush their teeth without difficulty, individuals with SPD may struggle with any or all of these experiences and other activities that commonly occur throughout the day.

Individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder may experience:

  1. Auditory sensitivity

  2. Smell sensitivity

  3. Visual sensitivity 

  4. Difficulty concentrating

  5. Poor fine motor skills

  6. Difficulty with textures

  7. Does not feel pain or touch normally 

  8. May have difficulty with gross motor skills

But how do you help individuals process sensory information more appropriately? Occupational therapists use sensory integration therapy to help a child organize information received from their senses and respond appropriately to the information gained. While sensory integration therapy can target many different senses, the most common systems impacted are the vestibular, proprioception, and tactile systems.

Vestibular 
The vestibular system is within the inner ear. This system is responsible for receiving sensory information about body movement and gravity. It helps individuals maintain balance and equilibrium through space. Disruptions to the vestibular system may cause individuals to be over responsive or under responsive. They may have poor coordination, poor balance, or seek out movements like spinning.


Activities for Vestibular System Input:

  • Activities that involve hanging upside down

  • Playing on playground equipment

  • Dancing

Proprioception
The proprioceptive system is within every single muscle in the body. It helps with body awareness like knowing how much force is needed to move objects or knowing the body’s exact location in space. Disruptions to this system may cause individuals to fall frequently (even if they are on flat surfaces). Disruptions may also cause excessive chewing on items (like shirt sleeves or other nonfood items), playing roughly and seem to be aggressive, throwing themselves into items like the floor or wall, and walking on their tip toes.

Activities to help Proprioception Regulation:

  • Heavy work like pushing or pulling heavy objects

  • Running or jumping

  • Deep pressure like tight hugs

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Tactile 
Tactile refers to how one experiences touch. For individuals with tactile sensitivity different textures may feel less comfortable or more painful. Individuals with tactile sensitivity may have difficulty wearing different textures, participating in grooming (hair brushing, teeth brushing), not like to be touched, being a picky eater, or have strong aversions to being dirty.


Activities to help Tactile Regulation:

  • Touching different textures or different objects

  • Playing with water

  • Completing arts and crafts or messy activities like finger painting 

While these are common activities that are used to help your child organize information from their senses, your child’s sensory system may require different activities. The sensory system is extremely complex and delicate. Some activities may help your child’s sensory system while other activities can hinder it. To be sure the activities selected are appropriate, consult with your occupational therapist prior to implementing sensory activities.


The point of implementing sensory activities is to help individuals achieve body regulation. Regarding sensory processing, being regulated means that an individual can function at their best throughout the day as their body is calm. Activities or strategies implemented incorrectly can cause a child to be under stimulated or over stimulated. A child who is under stimulated may fall asleep at atypical times throughout the day. A child that is over stimulated may be unable to attend, be easily distracted, unable to focus, unable to stop moving, or have meltdowns.


If you are concerned that your child may have sensory processing disorder, it is important to get evaluated by an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists are trained to evaluate and treat individuals with sensory processing disorder. Give us a call to set up an evaluation and get your child’s personalized treatment plan started.

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"Jessie is such a loving and caring therapist. Her passion for helping her patients and families show every visit. She is open to what works for each patient while being effective and productive. She is responsive and able to adapt to her patient's moods. Speech therapy has never been my son's favorite, and he has been to known to be a bit difficult, but it never slowed Jessie down. She was always so loving and made the sessions fun for him. I would recommend her to anyone looking for a great therapist."  – Belinda