Sensory Processing Disorder

Thoughtful Health is a Brisbane based clinic providing psychiatry, psychology, speech therapy and occupational therapy services for children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or other sensory processing difficulties.  

The following information is provided by Dr Carina Capra, who is an occupational therapist experienced in the management of Sensory Processing Disorder.  To make an appointment with Carina call us on 3463 0722. 


What is Sensory Processing?

It’s the way our body and brain receives, organises and understands sensory input (information from within the body and the physical environment) and turns them into responses. How we receive sensory input through sights, sounds, touch, tastes, smell and movement is a complex process. Sensory processing signals that don’t get organised into appropriate responses can hinder a child’s daily routines. As a result, their activities are disrupted. 


Problems with sensory processing can impact on learning, social relationships, behavioural responses, self-esteem and daily skills. Children with sensory processing disorders may demonstrate difficulties processing information through any of their sensory systems.

How do I know if my child has problems with sensory processing?

Children with sensory processing disorder may have the following difficulties:

  • Over sensitive: children may be overly sensitive to touch, movement, sights, smells, tastes and sounds. This may be manifested in behaviours such as irritability or withdrawal when touched, avoidance of certain textures ofclothes or food, distractibility, fearful reactions to ordinary movements (swinging, spinning). Young people can have large emotional responses (such as anxiety and anger).
  • Under-sensitive: an under–responsive child may seek out sensory experiences, such as whirling or crashing into people and objects. Some children change between extremes of over- and under – responsiveness. Some young people can be very impulsive when they are over stimulated.
    Activity level that is unusually high or low: A child or young person may be constantly on the move, may be slow to warm–up or may fatigue easily.
  • Coordination problems: This can be seen in gross and fine motor activities. Some children may have unusually poor balance, while others have great difficulty learning to do a new task that requires motor coordination.
  • Delays in speech, language, motor skills, or academic achievement: This may be evident in a pre-schooler along with other signs of poor sensory processing. In a school-aged child, there may be problems in some academic areas despite normal intelligence.
  • Behaviour problems: A child may be impulsive or distractible and show a lack of planning in approach to tasks. Some children have difficulty adjusting to new situations. Others may react with frustration, aggression, or withdrawal when they encounter failure.
  • Poor self-concept: A child or young person with sensory processing difficulties may notice that they don’t feel quite right. A bright child may know that some tasks are more difficult than others but may not know why. This child can often present as bored, lazy or unmotivated. When a problem is difficult to understand, parents and children may blame themselves. Family tension, poor self-concept and a general feeling of hopelessness may prevail.

What is the treatment?

Occupational Therapists have many ways to support children, young people, adults and families to understand your sensory processing including identifying your neurological threshold for responding to sensory input and what to do to make interaction in situation that are either under or over stimulating more manageable.  Occupational Therapy can help with practical strategies to assist children and young people experiencing sensory processing difficulties and lesson the impact on mental well being and behaviours.

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