sensory processing disorder

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder Subtypes

The symptoms of sensory processing disorder may depend substantially on the type of sense that is impacted, how it’s impacted, and the severity experienced by each individual.

Sensory processing disorder occurs in each of our sensory systems:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Tactile
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Vestibular
  • Proprioception
  • Interoception

A person might have just one sensory system that is affected, or they could have all eight, with various different subtypes. That’s why our FOCUS Fort Myers occupational therapists drive home the message that each child with SPD needs to be individually assessed – and treatment for every child is going to look different.

Those with sensory processing disorders have difficulty interpreting the sensory input they get. They might feel overwhelmed by sensory information – or they might crave it. They might seem to be untuned to the sensory input or feelings of others. They might be described as “clumsy,” “awkward” or “delayed.”

Here, we explain the main SPD subtypes.

Sensory Modulation Disorder

Sensory modulation disorder is when a person has trouble regulating their responses to sensory stimuli. There are three types of sensory modulation disorder:

  • Sensory over-responsiveness. This is when a person may respond too soon, for too long, or too much to a type of sensory stimuli that most people find pretty tolerable or normal.
  • Sensory under-responsiveness. This is when a person might be unaware of certain sensory stimulation. They might have a delayed response to it, or their responses could be muted or with less intensity than most people might show.
  • Sensory seeking. This is when someone may be compelled to seek out sensory stimulation, but once they do, they may be ultimately unsatisfied or it only results in disorganization. At the very least, it may be seen as socially problematic.

Sensory Discrimination Disorder

The second type of SPD is sensory discrimination disorder. This is when a child may have difficulty interpreting the subtle qualities of people, places, objects, or environments. This can include:

  • Auditory discrimination disorder. This would be trouble interpreting auditory/heard stimuli.
  • Visual discrimination disorder. Trouble determining or interpreting visual stimuli.
  • Tactile discrimination disorder. Trouble interpreting stimuli that is felt or touched.
  • Vestibular discrimination disorder. This is trouble determining or interpreting stimuli that is experienced through movement of the body against gravity or through space.
  • Proprioceptive discrimination disorder. This is difficulty determining or interpreting sensory stimuli experienced through joints and muscles.
  • Gustatory discrimination disorder. This is when someone has trouble interpreting or determining sensory stimuli that is tasted.
  • Olfactory discrimination disorder. Trouble interpreting/determining smelled stimuli.
  • Interoception. Trouble interpreting internal organ stimulation. (They may not feel the need to use the toilet or they might have frequent stomachaches.)

Sensory-Based Motor Disorder

Sensory-based motor disorder is when one has trouble with motor coordination, balance, and performing skilled motor tasks.

These include:

  • Postural disorder. Someone with postural disorder would have a skewed perception of their body position. Therefore, they’d struggle with poorly-developed patterns of movements that depend on stability of the core. They would appear to be weak or have poor endurance.
  • Dyspraxia. This is when the person would have trouble thinking of, planning, or carrying out skilled movements – especially new movements they aren’t familiar with.

FOCUS Therapy Treats Kids With Sensory Processing Disorder

If your child struggles with any type of SPD, our skilled team of occupational therapists can help!

FOCUS offers pediatric occupational therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

What is Sensory Processing Disorder? March 31, 2022, By Janice Rodden, ADDitude Magazine

More Blog Entries:

Fort Myers Feeding Therapy Tips for Picky Eaters, July 24, 2022, FOCUS Therapy Blog