November 10

Everything You Need to Know About Sensory Processing Disorder

Parents – you know better than anyone what it feels like to watch someone you love the most walk through challenges. You feel everything your kiddo feels when it comes to difficult situations they face. So if you have a child that is easily overwhelmed in large crowds, is always touching everything or doesn’t pick up on social cues or understand personal space, not only can it be frustrating, but absolutely heartbreaking to watch them struggle. 

You may have walked through a time of conflicting information – the world and maybe trusted people around you told you your kiddo would grow out of it or that it was their environment, or another kind of excuse. While the world told you that, your parental instincts told you another thing. You knew down in your gut there was something going on. Insert Sensory Processing Disorder.


There is not a “one size fits all” for sensory processing challenges, but SPD is a condition that affects how the brain and nervous system process stimuli. It can affect all five general senses (touch, smell, see, taste and hear) or just one of the five. 

Additionally, the two senses that are most important for pediatric brain and neurodevelopment, movement and balance, are most heavily affected in sensory children, along with oversensitivity to things in their environment.

There are two different kinds of sensory processing challenges – sensory avoiding (they do not want to be touched) and sensory seeking (always in need of more stimulation) and children can most definitely have a mix of both. 

Many children with Sensory Processing Disorder start out as fussy babies who become more anxious as they grow older. These kids often don’t handle change well and may frequently throw tantrums or have meltdowns.

Sensory processing disorder is still not recognized as a medical diagnosis and is usually blamed on genetics, but there is no concrete information to support this or any cause in the traditional medical world. Therapists tend to consider a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder when the symptoms become severe enough to affect normal functioning and disrupt daily life. 


Signs and symptoms can be different depending on your child’s sensory challenges. It can also be hard for parents to recognize signs of SPD because children don’t always know how to communicate their needs and they themselves don’t understand why they feel this way.

Sensory seeking signs:

  • Can’t sit still and seeks thrills (loves jumping, heights, and spinning)
  • Can spin without getting dizzy
  • Don’t pick up on social cues
  • Don’t recognize personal space
  • Puts items in mouth and chews on things (including hands and clothing)
  • Seeks visual stimulation (like electronics)
  • Problems sleeping
  • High pain threshold
  • Constantly touching things 
  • Rocking or swaying

Sensory avoiding signs:

  • Low pain threshold
  • Appearing clumsy
  • Fleeing without regard to safety
  • Covering eyes or ears frequently
  • Picky food preferences or gagging when eating
  • Resisting hugs or sudden touches
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Difficulty focusing attention
  • Sensitive to bright light and loud sounds


A neurologically-focused, pediatric chiropractor, or PX Doc, understands there are usually a multitude of factors involved with sensory processing disorder which can be linked to what we call The Perfect Storm. These perfect storm challenges cause the nervous system to get overwhelmed and stressed leading to what is known as dysautonomia. Dysautonomia is a term that most commonly means the autonomic (automatic) nervous system struggles to properly regulate both its internal and external environments.

One of the very first things to develop in-utero is the brain and autonomic nervous system, so if our mothers are left in a constant state of distress and anxiety, this can greatly affect the developing infant’s brain and nervous system. 

Another trigger is birth intervention and trauma (forceps, vacuum extraction, induction, C-section, etc) which can disrupt the function of the brainstem and upper cervical spinal cord regions, which are the most important areas for processing and integrating sensory information before it reaches the brain. Think of the brainstem as “Air Traffic Control” and filtration system for all of your child’s seven (7) senses, where it’s responsible for not only organizing and processing the information, but keeping out unwanted or annoying information. 

This unwanted and annoying information is known as nociception. The reason your child may be avoiding certain stimuli is to avoid additional ‘noisy’ and stressful situations they can’t yet tolerate, and additionally if they are constantly moving and seeking out physical touch and stimulation, they are doing so in order to bring about proprioception, which is the sense of movement. While it looks anything but on the outside for your sensory child, all of that movement and touching things is actually calming their brain down. 


The average pediatrician and medical provider will still tell parents of fussy, colicky, constipated babies something to the tune of, “Don’t worry, they’ll grow out of it.” But deep down parents have always known what plenty of research is now showing us – they don’t grow out of it, they grow into more chronic neurological challenges like Sensory Processing Disorder. 

When a baby is stressed and subluxated at birth, dysautonomia sets in right away, which then leads into stressed, overstimulated toddlers and children struggling with sensory processing disorder and resultant frequent tantrums and meltdown. Neurologically these challenges are one and the same, they just get a new name or diagnosis. 

In most cases, the first step is getting a child set up with different forms of movement-based therapy. This can be OT, PT, and speech therapy and while we absolutely support these ways of helping with sensory challenges, a lot of time families go through months and years of therapy and continue to feel like something is missing and more progress could be made somehow. 

At Reform Family Chiropractic (part of the Pediatric Experience), we know you’ve got to dig back down to those root causes, where all the stress and subluxation began. The first thing a neurologically-focused, pediatric chiropractor will do is take a deep dive into your child’s case history and use a tool that Pediatric Experience (PX) trained chiropractors use called the INSiGHT Scanning Technology.  

In just 10-15 minutes, these safe, non-invasive scans can find, measure and locate subluxation in your child’s autonomic nervous system.  These scans will help Dr. Matt put together a customized care plan that fits your child’s exact needs and start to restore function and balance to the autonomic nervous system. This is the missing link to help your child with their sensory processing challenges!  

Once your child starts their care plan with gentle adjustments that will release the stress and subluxation on the nervous system, these other therapies will be so much more effective, a true win-win situation! 

In addition to OT, PT, and Speech Therapy, there is a ton you can do to help on your own. Things such as prioritizing sleep, getting frequent walks outside and free time to move and play, and letting your child know ahead of time about schedule and routine changes can really help. 

Most often when we meet with parents of children with Sensory Processing Disorder, they’ve already tried quite a few things to help their child struggle less, but are still searching for more answers and action steps. That is where neurologically-focused, pediatric chiropractic care truly does become that missing link!


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