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How to talk to your pediatrician about Sensory Processing Disorder

Trust your instincts. If you’ve noticed your child displaying symptoms and behaviors associated with Sensory Processing Disorder, learn how to talk to your pediatrician about getting your child evaluated by an Occupational Therapist.


When your child acts up frequently, it’s easy to attribute it to simply being a kid. In most cases, it’s probably just that. Kids have ups and downs and all sorts of behavior issues that come and go. But if your instincts are telling you that something might be wrong, don’t be afraid to dig deeper. You’re not betraying your child in any way by entertaining the possibility that she might have a developmental or behavioral issue. You’re actually doing your child a favor by being proactive about her health and attentive to her needs.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

In her book, Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children With Sensory Processing Disorder, Dr. Lucy Jane Miller describes Sensory Processing Disorder as a complex disorder of the brain that affects developing children and adults.

In short, SPD affects the way individuals process information from the five senses, as well as sense of balance, movement and position in space.

Confused yet? You’re not alone. SPD has a huge variety of symptoms and is experienced in a wide variety of ways by those affected by the disorder.

Ultimately, it requires the assistance of a pediatric Occupational Therapist to help diagnose and treat this unique disorder.

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How common is SPD and what does it look like?

SPD is more common than you might think, affecting as many as one in 20 people, in varying degrees of severity. You may have elements of sensory issues, such as being particularly sensitive to certain noises or textures, like a tag on the back of a shirt.

Kids with SPD aren’t necessarily sensitive. Some don’t sense pain or textures the way others do, and might seek out sensory input. Many parents report children frequently spinning, crashing into furniture or mouthing on objects. Other children might flat out refuse to eat certain textures or temperatures. The difference between a finicky child and a child with SPD is that the child with SPD will often react in what you would consider a highly over the top manner, such as prolonged screaming and crying.

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I think my child has SPD. What next?

Call your pediatrician and make an appointment to talk about your child’s behaviors. Keep a running log for a few weeks, noting behaviors that seem unusual. Try to identify triggers that set off tantrums, as well as behaviors, textures and activities that appear to soothe your child.

Consider using a list, such at this list from the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation, to help organize your thoughts. Don’t be afraid to be “that mom.” Your pediatrician will welcome your assistance. Be firm and ask for a referral to an Occupational Therapist for a full evaluation. Even if your child doesn’t have SPD, you’ll receive great insight into helping work with problem behaviors and sensory issues.

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