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Sensory Processing Awareness Month

October, 2020

October, 2020

This month we recognise Sensory Processing Awareness Month.

The month is about educating others on what sensory processing disorder is (SPD), how living with the disorder can impact on someone's day to day life and what are the best strategies and resources to assist someone with SPD to live a happy and healthy life.

To gain a better understanding of SPD and how occupational therapy can assist someone living with the disorder, we spoke with HenderCare occupational therapist, Alice Zubrinich.

Sensory processing refers to the central nervous system's ability to organise the information it receives through the senses. We each have eight senses: touch, taste, smell, vision, hearing, vestibular, proprioception and interoception; we rely on all these to work together to make sense of the world around us. When there are difficulties with sensory processing identified through assessment by an Occupational Therapist (OT), a person can be labelled as having a sensory processing disorder. Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is an umbrella term for a range of difficulties one can experience.

For the person with SPD, the messages they receive from their senses can get mixed up in their brain, resulting in mismatched responses to everyday things. For example, they may have strong reactions to certain sounds, clothing or touch. This can impact their life in many ways, from their ability to get dressed, eat, study, find employment or even access the community.

Those with the disorder can face a range of 'sensory processing difficulties' which are split into two categories: oversensitive (hypersensitive) and undersensitive (hypersensitive).

Some examples of behaviour can include:

- Difficulty in dealing with particular sounds e.g. large gatherings such as birthday parties or a tendency to run away/avoid sounds from loud machines such as vacuum cleaners.

- A preference for brightly light environments but they can also have an aversion to dull-coloured items like clothes and food

- Can be unresponsive to touch- e.g. Doesn't recognise or respond to a tap on the shoulder or can be found to fidget often

There are a number of other behaviours that can occur in someone with SPD which can differ between each individual and in a number of different ways. 

SPD awareness month is really important in helping people understand the impact of SPD on everyday living and how these can be addressed. It also helps with normalising these difficulties, providing correct information and helping everyone (not just those with SPD) find effective sensory strategies (we all use them!).

The role of OT in helping people with SPD is to find sensory strategies that help them meet their needs and help their brain make more sense of the world around them. Many OTs help by providing education, sensory diets and specialised equipment to help with addressing these needs.

If you know anyone who has SPD, or you suspect they may have sensory needs that aren’t being addressed, you can contact our occupational therapists about your needs today on 1300 764 433 or email alliedhealth@hendercare.com.au