What is a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) may also be known as Sensory Processing Difficulties, Sensory Integration Dysfunction.


SPD is when the brain finds it difficult to do its most important job, which is that of organising and responding to the information which it is receiving.


A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which can create challenges in performing everyday tasks. 


Each of the 7 senses may be over (hyper) or under (hypo) responsive and may fluctuate and mix throughout a day. We can recognise needs in some of the characteristics we observe. Characteristics of SPD are often misunderstood as negative behaviours and can be breaking things, biting things, pushing people, fidgeting with objects, humming and rocking.


In our workshops also mention another internal sensory system called Interoception - which is our sense alerting us when we are hungry, thirsty, tired or need the toilet.


You will learn how to personalise the way you understand someone's sensory needs on all our workshops. We also have hundreds of FREE videos on our YouTube channel which you can learn from and share.

Did you know we teach about 8 sensory systems?

Visual information is received externally through our eye organs.

This can detect contrasts, colours, patterns, shapes and 3d elements.

Someone with a visual processing difficulty may become easily distracted with moving visuals, may love flickering fabric near their eye or find reading difficult to discriminate words on a page.

Auditory information is received externally through our ears.

We process sound through vibrations. These vibrations travel into our ear and down our ear canal where the hairs in our ear and ear drum identify the sound.

Someone with an auditory processing difficulty may find it difficult to discriminate between people's voices, may bang or tap objects or may remove themselves from sound by covering their ears or refusing to be in a particular area.

Olfactory information (smell) is received externally using our nose.

This is the only sense where the messages travel directly to our brain.

Smells alert us to danger and we relate to smells by processing them in the same area of our brain as we process emotions which is why we may feel a certain way when we smell a perfume our grandma used to wear.

People with smell sensitivities may gag when entering rooms or lick people or objects to gain more olfactory input.

Gustatory information is received through tiny taste receptors in our tongue.

Our sense of taste detects bitter, salty, sour, sweet & unami tastes in our brain.

We often relate eating to our taste sense however we also have the most amount of tactile receptors in our mouth and rely on our sense of smell to get the flavour in foods.

Someone with taste processing difficulties may only eat really salty foods, or they may choose to eat foods with very limited tastes. 

Tactile information is received through our skin. It is known as our largest external sense as it covers the whole of the outside of our body, as well as inside!

Touch sensations tell us when we feel something rough, smooth, firm or ticklish on our skin. It can also give us temperature messages (we can feel ice cream is cold as we swallow it).

Someone with tactile processing difficulties may find labels and seams difficult in clothing. Some people may prefer rough, scratchy textures or firm pressure.

Proprioceptive information is received from the muscles and joints inside our body.

Proprioception tells us where our body is in space - it is the feedback we feel from our joints & muscles. Knowing when something is heavy or light.

Someone with Proprioceptive processing difficulties may struggle to discriminate between how much force and pressure to use, so may be someone who seems to break things easily, or always slams the door closed.

Vestibular information is our sense of movement and is modulated internally by fluid between our ears (in our inner ear).

Our Vestibular sense gives us information about how fast or slow we are moving and relies on gravity for us to understand this as well as information from our eyes.

Someone with Vestibular processing difficulties may constantly love to move - jumping, rocking, bouncing, spinning. Other people may seem reluctant to move position or get travel sick easily.


information tells us what our body is feeling inside. Messages like how fast our heart is beating, if we need the toilet, if we're thirsty or tired.

Messages from external sensory systems (vision, hearing, smell, taste or touch) can over-ride us recognising these internal feelings.

We mainly recognise difficulties in recognising these messages through emotions. E.g someone may get hANGRY, if they are hungry (angry when the are hungry).

© 2012 - 2020 Becky Lyddon, Sensory Spectacle Founder