Sensory Processing Disorder

About Sensory Processing Disorder

At STEPS for Kids, we specialize in meeting the needs of children and families affected by sensory processing disorders (SPD) and related conditions. Our occupational therapy staff has advanced training in assessment and treatment of sensory processing disorders, including certification in SIPT (Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests) administration and Level 1 Mentorship training through the STAR Institute in Denver, CO. Our therapists follow the model of Sensory Processing disorder presented by Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR and adhere to treatment methods based on the work of Jean Ayres, PhD, OTR and others. In addition to assessment and treatment of SPD, our staff provides parent and professional education through community based workshops and presentations as a way to improve understanding, spread awareness and advocate for people affected by SPD.

What is SPD?

“Sensory processing (sometimes called “sensory integration” or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or “sensory integration.” Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as “sensory integration dysfunction”) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.” (from )

While SPD is not considered a medical diagnosis by itself, difficulty with sensory processing is now considered to be one of the criteria for diagnosis with an autism spectrum disorder (DSM-5, 2015). Children with other conditions or diagnoses often exhibit signs of sensory processing disorder. These related conditions include ADD/ADHD, specific learning disorders, giftedness, and many developmental disorders. However, some children simply present with signs of SPD without any other clear diagnosis or condition. Research on SPD continues and shows promise of uncovering the neurological basis for this disorder, leading to improved treatment methods and support for persons affected by sensory processing disorders. Dr. Lucy Miller of the SPD Foundation has classified sensory processing disorders into three categories: modulation disorders, motor-based disorders and discrimination disorders. Children may exhibit one or more of these disorders, which can make understanding and treating SPD more difficult. Treatment is based in the use of developmentally appropriate activities provided with structure for creating the “just right challenge” within a sensory rich environment. Parent education and community advocacy are an important part of treatment, so that the child’s needs are understood and supported across all settings.

Understanding the continuum of sensory processing that includes individual differences, respecting the perception of sensory experiences as being unique to the individual and knowing how to support successful participation in daily activities are vital to helping individuals who struggle with altered sensory processing. Likewise, understanding how sensory processing impacts our physical and mental health allows us to use specific, targeted interventions to support all individuals throughout the lifespan with a wide variety of conditions.

For more information about SPD contact us today or visit these helpful websites:

STAR Institute

Raising A Sensory Smart Child

Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals – A Sensory Life!

Recommended Reading:

Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorders (Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR)

No Longer A SECRET: Unique Common Sense Strategies for Children with Sensory or Motor Challenges (Doreit S. Bailer, MA, OTR/L and Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR)

The Out of Sync Child; The Out of Sync Child Has Fun; The Goodenoughs Get In Sync (all by Carol Stock Kranowitz)

Raising A Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Integration Issues (by Lindsey Biel, MS, OTR/L and Nancy Peske)

507 W. Kendall Dr., Suite 4 - Yorkville, IL 60560

(New Location as of July 1, 2023)


Phone: 630-552-9890 / Fax: 630-552-9891