Sensory Processing is a neurodevelopmental skill that develops as a child grows. As a child matures from a toddler into a young child, the neurological system progresses to be able to register and respond holistically to all the incoming sensory stimuli. The system learns to integrate, process and respond appropriately to these stimuli. The child is able to adapt to these incoming stimuli and transition with experienced changes.
Sensory processing involves integration of single as well as multiple sensory stimuli which could include the following:
Once the stimuli get registered, one still needs to modulate one’s response in order to elicit an appropriate response to the environment.
An individual with a sensory integration disorder may have problems registering the stimuli and be hypo or hyper-reactive to them. If the response is hyper-reactive, then there is a tendency to manifest with a flight or fight response as adrenaline kicks in.
Modulation of response is an issue. The child may under or over respond to an ordinary stimulus and this can be unpredictable.
Others would view them as being abnormal or irritating as their responses are not what would generally be expected or sometimes, accepted.
It must be noted that Sensory Processing Disorder, also known as Sensory Integration Disorder (SPD/SID) is rarely a standalone disorder. It is often associated with a primary developmental disorder. The most common disorder that is associated and often presenting with the most challenging behaviours related to sensory processing and modulation would be an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Should your child manifest difficulty with sensory input, it would be important to have him or her assessed. Intervention such as the implementation of a (non-oral) sensory diet and sensory integration strategies would be extremely helpful.