Most adults have very little memory of what it was like to encounter new sights, sounds, and smells in childhood.

But each environment we encounter is full of rich sensory information that we need to process as we move about our day. We also process sensory information internally, such as feeling our own heart beat or pulse.

For people with sensory processing disorder, sensory information can be overwhelming or uncomfortable.

Aurora Speech Clinic in York region offers a variety of pediatric speech-language pathology and occupational therapy services.

Among our areas of clinical focus, Aurora Speech Clinic’s occupational therapists provide treatment for kids with sensory processing disorder.

Keep reading to learn more about sensory processing disorder – what it is, how it shows up, its causes, and its treatments.

What is Sensory Processing?

Our senses are constantly gathering information about the world around us and our internal bodily sensations.

These include:

  • Sight
  • Smell
  • Hearing
  • Taste
  • Touch
  • Proprioception (awareness of body position and movement)
  • Vestibular (sense of balance)

Sensory processing, also known as sensory integration, refers to the way our nervous system receives, interprets, and responds to this sensory information from the environment.

For example, the sound of rushing cars and the smell of car exhaust can tell you you’re approaching a busy intersection.

The texture and appearance of a sweater may indicate if it’s warm enough for a crisp autumn day.

Or your vestibular sense can tell you if you’re following a safe path on a hike.

Sensory processing involves several key aspects, which we’ll explore below.

Sensory Reception

This is the initial step where sensory receptors in our sensory organs (eyes, ears, skin, etc) detect external stimuli.

This can include things like light, sound, temperature, and texture, as well as internal sensations like hunger or pain.

Sensory Perception

After reception, your brain processes and interprets the sensory information to make sense of it.

This step involves identifying and categorizing the sensory input, such as recognizing a familiar smell or understanding a spoken word.

Sensory Integration

Your brain integrates information from multiple sensory channels to form a cohesive and meaningful perception of your environment.

For example, when you see a red apple and simultaneously touch it, your brain combines visual and tactile information to recognize it as an apple.

Sensory Modulation

This aspect relates to your brain’s ability to regulate and filter sensory information. This serves to prevent sensory overload or under responsiveness.

People with sensory processing disorders may struggle with sensory modulation, leading to heightened sensitivity (hypersensitivity) or reduced sensitivity (hyposensitivity) to certain stimuli.

Motor Response

Once your brain processes the sensory input, it generates an appropriate motor response.

This can involve actions such as moving away from a painful stimulus, reaching for an object, or speaking in response to a conversation.

What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing disorder refers to difficulty processing and responding to sensory input in a typical way.

Difficulty with sensory processing can manifest in various ways and may affect you or your child’s behaviour, emotions, and overall wellbeing.

Signs Your Child May Have Sensory Processing Disorder

Signs of sensory processing disorders can vary depending on whether a person is hypersensitive (over responsive) or hyposensitive (under responsive) to sensory stimuli.

Below, you’ll find some common symptoms of sensory processing disorder.

It’s important to note that sensory processing disorder can vary widely from person to person, and not all individuals will exhibit the same signs or symptoms.

Additionally, SPD often co-occurs with other conditions like autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, or anxiety disorders.

1. Hypersensitivity (Over Responsiveness)

Sensitivity to noise: Reacts strongly to loud sounds, covers ears, or becomes distressed in noisy environments.

Sensitivity to light: Discomfort or avoidance of bright lights or fluorescent lighting.

Sensitivity to touch: Dislikes certain textures of clothing, labels, seams, or tags. Avoids physical contact or hugs.

Sensitivity to taste and smell: Prefers bland foods, gags easily, or avoids certain smells.

Sensitivity to temperature: Extreme reactions to hot or cold weather, discomfort in certain temperatures.

2. Hyposensitivity (Under responsiveness)

Lack of awareness: Appears oblivious to pain or injury, may not respond when called, or has difficulty noticing when hands or face are dirty.

Constant movement: Fidgets excessively, seeks out intense sensory input like spinning or swinging, or has difficulty sitting still.

Craves sensory stimulation: Chews on objects, sucks on fingers or clothing, or seeks out tactile experiences.

Impulsivity: Difficulty with self regulation, leading to impulsive behaviors or difficulties with personal space.

3. Motor coordination difficulties

Clumsiness: Frequent trips, falls, or bumping into objects.

Difficulty with fine motor skills: Struggles with tasks like writing, buttoning clothes, or using utensils.

Poor posture: Difficulty sitting or standing upright for extended periods.

RELATED: Pediatric Occupational Therapy For Motor Skills Development

4. Social and emotional challenges

Anxiety: May become anxious or overwhelmed in new or sensory rich environments.

Social difficulties: Struggles with social interactions, difficulty making friends, or avoiding crowded places.

Emotional regulation: Difficulty managing emotions, leading to meltdowns or emotional outbursts.

Feeding difficulties: Selective eating, limited food choices, or strong aversions to certain textures or tastes.

RELATED: Speech Therapy For Feeding And Swallowing Disorders

Pediatric Occupational Therapy For Sensory Processing Disorder

If you suspect that you or someone you know has difficulty with sensory processing, it’s important to seek the guidance of a qualified occupational therapist.

Pediatric occupational therapy can offer many benefits to children with sensory processing disorder.

It’s important to note that every child with sensory processing difficulties is unique, and occupational therapists tailor their interventions to meet the specific needs and goals of each person.

Below, you’ll find more about how occupational therapists typically address sensory processing difficulties.



Comprehensive Evaluation: Pediatric occupational therapists start by conducting a thorough assessment to understand the individual’s sensory processing challenges. This evaluation may involve interviews, standardized assessments, and clinical observations.

Sensory Profile: Pediatric occupational therapists often use tools like sensory profiles or questionnaires to gather information about an individual’s sensory preferences and sensitivities.

Identifying Triggers: Your pediatric occupational therapist will work with you and your child to identify specific sensory triggers and situations that lead to discomfort or behavioural challenges.

Creating a Sensory Routine:

Customized Strategies: Pediatric occupational therapists develop a sensory routine, which is a personalized plan of sensory activities and strategies that help your child regulate their sensory system.

Proprioceptive and Vestibular Activities: Sensory routines often include activities that provide deep pressure (proprioceptive input) and movement (vestibular input) to help individuals feel more grounded and organized.

Sensory Modulation Techniques: Techniques like deep pressure, brushing, or joint compressions may be used to help individuals modulate their sensory responses.

Environmental Modifications:

Sensory Friendly Environment: Your pediatric occupational therapist may recommend adjustments to the individual’s home, school, or work environment to reduce sensory triggers and create a more supportive space.

Visual Supports: Visual schedules, social stories, and visual cues can help your child better understand and prepare for their sensory experiences.

Sensory Integration Therapy:

Sensory Integration (SI) therapy is a specialized approach that focuses on improving the brain’s ability to process and integrate sensory information.

Pediatric occupational therapists trained in sensory integration may use activities like swinging, climbing, and other therapeutic equipment to promote sensory integration.

Collaborative Approach:

Pediatric occupational therapists often work as part of a multidisciplinary team.

This team may include speech therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and educators, to provide holistic support for individuals with sensory processing difficulties.

Education and Training

Pediatric occupational therapists will work to educate you, your child, and their other caregivers about sensory processing difficulties.

This helps them understand the underlying mechanisms and the importance of consistent sensory interventions.

Book Your Appointment With Aurora Speech Clinic Today

Occupational therapy can help both you and your child understand your child’s needs and challenges better, so you can grow together.

Put your child on a path to a new experience of the world.

Book your appointment with Aurora Speech Clinic today.