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Use the information provided on this site as an educational resource for determining your options and making your own
informed choices. It is not intended as medical advice or to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any specific illness.
Toys, Products, and Ideas
for Sensory Education
|Sensory Processing Disorder is a neurological disorder causing difficulties with processing information from the five
classic senses (vision, auditory, touch, olfaction, and taste), the sense of movement (vestibular system), and/or the
positional sense (proprioception). See our "What is SI?" page for more info.
For those with SPD or SID, sensory information is sensed normally, but perceived abnormally. Individuals with sensory
processing disorder may therefore be overly or under responsive to sensations. For example, sensations that are
typically not noticed by most of us, such as a light touch on the arm, may be extremely bothersome to an individual with
the over-responsive type of sensory processing disorder; conversely sensations that we normally orient to, such as
our name being called, may not be recognized by individuals with the under-responsive type of sensory processing
This responsiveness to sensations often interferes with functional behaviors, social interaction and learning activities,
and thus, occupational therapists work with these individual's to help them function more competently
SPD can be a disorder on its own, but it can also be a characteristic of other neurological conditions, including autism
spectrum disorders, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, Developmental Dyspraxia, Tourette's Syndrome, multiple
sclerosis, and speech delays, among many others.
How Does an Adult or Adolescent Know if He or She has Sensory Integration Dysfunction?
If you or an adult acquaintance answer yes to several of the following questions, a sensory integration
based occupational therapy evaluation may be beneficial. Rate on a scale of 0-5 ("0" being NEVER, "5" being
___Difficulties with balance, becomes disoriented and/or fearful on elevators or escalators.
___Fatigues easily; tends to lean on arms or slump at desk.
___Accident-prone, clumsy or awkward in daily activities.
___Dislikes crowds or accidental jostling in public situations (standing in line at the movie theater or shopping in store
___Low tolerance for approach from behind or unexpected touch.
___Difficulty in maintaining intimate relationships, difficulty with physical closeness.
___Disorganized in work or home activities.
___Difficulty following several step instructions for motor tasks.
___Difficulty with driving, parking, shifting gears or entering freeways.
___Poor self-esteem, lack of confidence.
___Difficulty focusing attention or over-focused and unable to shift to next task.
___Bothered by clothes; certain materials, tags, seams, pantyhose, ties, belts, turtlenecks, have to wear shorts, skirts,
or pants exclusively.
___Have to fidget and "fiddle" with things all the time; change in your pocket, your keys, a pen/pencil, paper clip,
rubber band, ANYTHING within reach
___Will often rock or sway body back and forth while seated or standing still
___Restless when sitting through a lecture, presentation, or movie
___Constantly chews on ends of pens and pencils
___Frequently shake your leg while sitting or falling asleep
___Has an "endless" supply of air fresheners, scented candles, odor masking sprays, etc.
___Avoids crowds and plans errands at times when there will be fewer people
___Drinks excessive amounts of coffee or caffeinated beverages
___Notice and bothered by noises other people do not seem bothered by... clocks, refrigerators, fans, people talking,
outdoor construction, etc.
___Easily distracted by auditory or visual stimuli
___Fearful of heights
___Difficulty remembering or understanding what is said to you
___Sensitive, or over reacts, to sirens, dogs barking, vaccuum cleaners, blenders, or other sudden/loud sounds
___Bumps into things frequently
___Often pushes too hard on objects, accidentally breaking them
___Difficulty judging how much pressure to apply when doing tasks or picking something up
___Numbers and letters often reversed or backwards
___Clumsy, uncoordinated, and accident prone
___Difficulty with fine motor tasks such as buttoning, zipping, tying, knitting, sewing, playing games with small parts,
closing zip loc bags
___Difficulty with handwriting; hard to read, takes a long time to write
___Easily fatigued with physical tasks
___Hums or vocalizes while concentrating on a task
___Difficulty lining up numbers correctly for math problems and/or balancing a checkbook
___Dislikes changes in plans or routines, needs structure
___May be described as "stubborn", "defiant", or "uncooperative"
___Cries easily, over things others usually don't, very "emotional" and "sensitive"
___Can't seem to finish anything
___Difficulty making decisions
___Rigid and controlling
___Prefers solitary activities, avoids groups
___Impatient and/or impulsive
___Difficulty with social cues and non verbal language
___Difficulty with authority figures
___Strong feelings of anger or rage
___OCD-type qualities; can't let foods touch each other on your plate, have to wear clothes a certain way,
___Distractable and unorganized
___Over or under sensitivity to the sensation of hunger/appetite
Therapy for adults typically includes 3 steps:
First, the therapist explains to the patient why they respond the way they do to touch, movement, vision, smell, hearing
and taste. With this information, patient begin to gain some control over the amounts and types of sensory stimuli they
encounter and can advocate for themselves.
Second, patients engage in sensory and physical activities that make them feel better, such as applying pressure to
the skin, experiencing heavy vibration, jumping on a trampoline, rocking in a rocking chair or more extreme activities
several times per day.
Third, patients are advised to add strenuous activity to their lifestyles, such as jogging, swimming, aerobics or weight
Sensory Diet Checklist for Adolescents & Adults (pdf)
Other activities that have been helpful for adult SI:
Studies have shown that yoga reduces autonomic nervous system tone, provides proprioceptive input, and engages
the relaxation response through the neuromuscular and limbic systems. Proprioceptive activities may enhance
self-regulation, decrease sensory defensiveness, and improve body awareness. Participation in yoga provides a
substantial amount of proprioceptive input and yoga will help decrease sensory defensiveness and improve
participation in social activities. Direct benefits to the subjects include identification of atypical sensory sensitivity; a
greater understanding of self-management techniques that reduce sensory reactivity and anxiety; and better
engagement in daily occupations, routines, and perceived roles with resultant successful outcomes. See our yoga
page for more info.