Sensory Processing

Our brain receives information from a range of senses within our body. This information is often handled in a way by the brain that enables a person to feel alert, comfortable and in control within an environment. However, for some, this may not happen in the same straightforward fashion. At times the sense can feel overwhelming (sensory overload) leading to upset and potentially triggering stronger feelings. This is known as sensory avoiding. For some it can be the opposite – they may crave the sensations to feel a sense of calm, sensory seeking.

sensory overload
Who might be affected by sensory processing issues?

Anyone can be affected by a sensory processing disorder. Younger children are more likely to show signs of a sensory processing issue than adults and autistic people often commonly display difficulties with regard to sensory processing.

What are the signs of a sensory processing disorder?

Signs can include avoiding busy places, showing aversion to smells or tastes, sensitivities to clothing or displaying behaviours such as crashing and bumping into others/objects. There are a wide range of behaviours that may link in with 7 senses (excluding interoception):

  • Auditory – sound
  • Gustatory – taste
  • Olfactory – smell
  • Proprioception – the body’s ability to sense it’s own position, movements etc
  • Tactile – touch
  • Vestibular – associated with balance and eye movement
  • Vision – sight
How is SPD diagnosed?

SPD is not diagnosed formally but may be used to diagnose a “sensory processing disorder”

A range of measures can be used to investigate sensory needs and the professionals qualified to identify these needs are Occupational Therapists. Other professionals may also identify sensory processing issues too including psychologists and paediatricians.

Sensory needs can often show themselves in a range of different behaviours that can cause significant challenge for a child within a school or other organisational environment. In order to help meet these needs, it is useful for teachers and other professionals to have an overview of the types of behaviours that are associated with sensory processing issues and the types of activities that might help a young person facing these challenges.

SEMH.co.uk has created a free tool to help teachers and parents to have a closer look at behaviours that may have a sensory function. This is not a diagnostic tool nor a replacement for professional advice and diagnosis. Use of this tool should be made without any responsibility being given to SEMH.co.uk for actions taken by those using it. It is for information purposes only. Please find the link to this tool below.