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Does Your Child have a Sensory Processing Disorder?

by Barbara Minton
See all TBYIL articles by Barbara Minton

(The Best Years in Life) Children and adults who have good neurosensory processing and integration can receive stimuli from the environment and process it quickly to make meaning and create understanding that may lead to appropriate action. They feel at home in the world because they can relate to it with in a consistent and meaningful way.

Children and adults who are unable to interpret and organize sensory stimuli in a meaningful and consistent manner are at a disadvantage in almost every situation in which they find themselves. This disadvantage is so profound that it has a name, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). This disorder has nothing to do with innate intelligence, but it can impact the development of innate intelligence over time. Many children who are born with average or above average intelligence find themselves unable to successfully integrate the tremendous amount of stimuli that is constantly being sent from their environment. The reasons for this are often physiological.

The normal process of sensory integration begins before birth and continues throughout the lifetime, with the majority of development occurring by the time the child reaches the age of ten. During the first decade of life, the development of motor skills, speech and language, and emotional stability also takes place. Each of these developmental areas requires the ability to integrate and process environmental stimuli, and they are likely to be negatively impacted in a child with SPD. Sensory integration and processing lays the foundation for the complex learning and behavior expected throughout the lifetime.

Children with SPD are often misunderstood, and words such as aggressive, hyper, inattentive, clumsy and difficult may be applied to them. Sensory integration problems can be the reason for a child being singled out and labeled for special education services.  Depending on how the disorder is manifested in each child, and the state in which the child lives, the labels can include:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Emotional Disturbance

  • Learning Disabilities

  • Mental Retardation

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder

The diagnosis can also include a motor or speech and language component. Some children manifest many of the symptoms of SPD but just manage to scrape by and avoid a label, while still functioning below their potential. These labels often fail to address the underlying cause.

In addition to the five senses (vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste), there are two other senses that we rarely hear about: the vestibular and propioceptive systems. The vestibular system has functions located in the cerebellum, the upper part of the neck known as the cervical spine, and the inner ear.

The vestibular system is the regulator of each and every bit of incoming sensory information and is considered the most important sensory system in the body.

The proprioceptive system is located throughout the spine as well as all other joints of the body, and deals with movement and spatial relation.


Does your child have symptoms of SPD?

Here is a list of symptoms that a child with SPD may exhibit. This list is by no means inclusive:

  • Difficulty getting oriented in space

  • May spend lots of time sitting or standing so that the head is not oriented upward

  • Heightened sensitivity to clothing texture and sewn-in labels

  • Ritualized dressing habits such as with socks and shoes

  • Frequently walking on balls of feet to avoid stimulus to feet bottoms

  • Picky with food, preferring foods of similar texture and temperature

  • Likes to spin, swing, jump, and has difficulty sitting still

  • Overly sensitive to smells or may crave the smelling sensation

  • Pain tolerance that is exceptionally high or low

  • Does not like change

  • Difficulty concentrating in noisy surroundings

  • Impulsive, easily distracted

  • Craves body contact with objects

  • Tires easily

  • Engages in excessive motor activity

  • Displays allergies or food sensitivities

  • Sensitivity to chemicals in the immediate environment

  • Does not like to touch messy substances or craves to touch them

  • Often constipated

  • Displays digestive difficulties

  • Often crabby

  • Frequent ear infections

  • Speaks in a loud voice

  • Has temper tantrums

  • Difficulty with balance

  • Is stiff, awkward or clumsy

  • Has frequent mood swings

  • Often appears to be in perpetual motion

Choosing chiropractic care as treatment for SPD

Why is the brain unable to process certain information received from the body's sensory systems? Neurologists suggest the brain does not receive messages due to a disconnection from the peripheral nervous system, or sensory messages are received consistently but do not connect properly with other sensory messages. This may be due to birth trauma, an injury sustained at birth or at anytime during life, a fall or an accident. Even normal labor and delivery can result in injury, with the upper cervical spine being the most vulnerable area.

Optimal functioning of the vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems is essential to the development of healthy sensory processing and integration. Both of these systems reside in the spine, so it is important that children exhibiting signs of SPD be evaluated by a chiropractor to determine if they have vertebral subluxations, which are misalignments of the spine that may cause interference with the brain and sensory systems.

Chiropractor David Jockers says, "Subluxation scrambles the neurological feedback loop by causing altered rhythms of neurological flow. Subluxation insults the neurology of the infant and affects normal development and maturation." This can create an environment conducive to the development of neurological imbalances.

Many chiropractors are specialists in locating, diagnosing and correcting subluxations of the upper cervical spine in infants and young children. Their treatments offer a safe, natural way to restore optimal functioning, something drugs can never do.  According to Dr. Jockers, chiropractors are able to locate specific biomedical and neurological imbalances in the young child that can be corrected.

Studies have shown that children diagnosed with upper cervical spine subluxations thought to have resulted from early childhood trauma or injury will experience dramatic results when treated with this chiropractic model:

*Child receives chiropractic adjustments over a period of weeks to remove subluxation and balance neurology.

*This is followed up with an anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates irritants and encourages the use of probiotics and digestive enzymes to treat the digestive disturbance such children usually exhibit.

See Also:

Teaching Children Gardening Boosts Their Development and Health

How to Build Self Confidence in Your Children

Big Pharma Caught Pushing Psychotropic Drugs on Underprivileged Children


About the Author:

Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.

See other articles by the Barbara Minton here:

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