Supporting the Sensory Brain with Therapy

Supporting the Sensory Brain with Therapy

by Kristina Nofsinger

     Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) can be defined as the brain’s inability to properly interpret, organize, or respond to stimuli. Until recently, SPD was not considered a legitimate disorder by many and, therefore, was widely misdiagnosed or went undiagnosed. The question arises, can traditional methods of treating sensory processing issues still be considered best practice now that there is evidence of altered brain structure? In spite of the new evidence discovered, research still proves that the ultimate success of a child revolves around the management of the child’s environment.
     Sensory Processing Disorder has been studied for decades; however, there had been no medical grounds for the disorder classification. According to a study released by the UC San Francisco “researchers have found that children affected with SPD have quantifiable differences in brain structure, for the first time showing a biological basis for the disease that sets it apart from other neurodevelopmental disorders” (Bunim,2013). This means there is evidence to prove what has been long suspected; SPD is rooted in the fundamental makeup of the child. This information not only lends credit to the diagnosis but also paves the way for further research and treatment options. Yet this cutting-edge scientific study begs the question, does the biology of the child play a larger role in the severity of sensory processing issues than previously thought? Current research and effective treatment options already being employed, lend more credit to cultural control and regulation.
     Pursuant to the active genotype-environment correlation, children with SPD will actively seek environments most compatible with their sensory issues. These actions are often seen as a problem or abnormal behavior. However, if a child’s classroom, for example, is regulated in such a way that a child has the opportunity to seek refuge from over-stimulation, learn coping skills, and move while learning, problem behaviors begin to dissipate. Reebye and Stalker (2008) relay practical information for both teachers and parents in designing an environment where a child with SPD can thrive. This book represents just a drop in an ocean of therapeutic research from ABA to Occupational Therapy.
Although the latest scientific findings are important for further understanding and research, they cannot replace the evidenced based belief that the culture around a child is key to the success of the child with SPD. Early intervention, classroom regulation, parental awareness, and individualized therapy will remain best practice standards. Not every therapy works for every child, but they will all agree that therapy works.


Bunim, J. (2013). Breakthrough Study Reveals Biological Basis for Sensory Processing Disorders in Kids. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from
Reebye, P., & Stalker, A. (2008). Understanding Regulation Disorders of Sensory Processing in Children: Management Strategies for Parents and Professionals. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.


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