Here at Seashell, we’re passionate about supporting children and young adults with sensory impairment and profound learning difficulties, and so today, we want to shed some light on a topic that’s close to our hearts: Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of SPD, from recognising the signs in young children to getting a diagnosis, and what steps to take after diagnosis. So, let’s dive right in and start shedding some light on what sensory processing disorder is.

Seashell worker with boy

What is sensory processing disorder?

Often referred to as SPD, sensory processing disorder is a condition that affects how our nervous system receives, processes, and responds to sensory information around us. The sensory inputs affected include things we see, touch, taste, hear, and smell.  

It’s worth noting here that sometimes sensory processing disorder can be misconstrued as an individual being picky about certain textures or sounds, but this is not the case. SPD is a genuine neurological condition and one that requires specialist handling.  

What signs to look for in young children

Recognising the signs of sensory processing disorder is really important for early intervention and ensuring the child in question receives the right support. It’s important to remember that every child is unique, and their symptoms can vary, but here are some common signs to look out for: 

Sensory overload

Often children with sensory processing disorders can become overwhelmed in certain environments. Sometimes when they are in environments with bright lights, loud noises, or strong smells, they can find this increasingly overwhelming. They may cover their ears, cry, or become quiet and take themselves into a quiet space. 

Sensitivity to touch 

Sometimes children can react to certain textures of clothing or food. They may struggle to wear a specific pair of socks due to the texture, or they might avoid hugs or resist being touched.  

Issues with motor coordination

SPD can affect a child’s motor skills, making tasks like tying their laces or using cutlery a big challenge. 

Unusual food preferences

Children with SPD may have strong dislikes for certain tastes or textures, limiting their food choices. This often becomes a struggle for parents when it comes to varying meals and ensuring their nutritional needs are being met. 

Difficulty with a change in routine

Changes in routine can be particularly challenging for children with SPD. They might become anxious or upset when transitioning from one activity to another. Often, the need for a strict routine is high for children with sensory processing disorders. 


On the flip side, some children with SPD may seek out sensory input, such as constantly touching things or engaging in activities that provide intense sensory feedback. 

Getting a diagnosis for sensory processing disorder

If you think your child may have SPD, it’s essential to seek professional help.  

The first step should be to talk to your doctor. Start by scheduling an appointment with your GP. They can perform a comprehensive assessment and rule out other possible conditions. 

As sensory processing disorder is a relatively new term in the UK, some parents have commented that it can be hard to get a diagnosis for this. We recommend that you start with your doctor, and this way, you may find the process quite easy. Getting a diagnosis for SPD often requires a lot of referrals and appointments but you’ll end up in the right place to get the right help. 

What to do after a diagnosis

Receiving a diagnosis of SPD can be a relief for many, as it explains the challenges their child has been facing. Here’s a roadmap for what to do next. 

Educate yourself and your family

It’s important to learn more about sensory processing disorder and the specific impact it has on your child.  Understanding their unique sensory profile will guide your approach to support and help you to better understand their needs. Here at Seashell, we frequently hold workshops on sensory training to help parents and carers become better equipped to deal with this condition. Check out our list of events to find out when the next training session on sensory conditions is available. 

Get your own network

Often, connecting with other families who have sensory processing disorder experiences can be helpful. Support groups and online communities can provide valuable advice, empathy, and a sense of belonging. This is where our training sessions can come in handy – you’ll get the chance to meet other affected families face-to-face. 

Create a sensory-friendly space

Make changes at home and school to accommodate your child’s sensory needs. This might include using sensory tools, adapting routines, and providing a quiet space for breaks. 

Get involved with the school

Work closely with your child’s school to develop an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP or EHC plan). This idea is to outline specific accommodations and services they may need to help them achieve their goals.  

Here at Seashell, we specialise in helping children and young adults with special education needs, so we created dedicated sensory areas. We have a number of different sensory rooms at our Royal School Manchester, Royal College Manchester and in many of our homes.  

Our sensory rooms provide a safe environment where children and young people can relax and explore. A number of our sensory rooms are fitted with features including waterbeds, colourful padded floors, interactive equipment, bubble tubes, light projectors, and sounds. We’ve found that these sensory rooms play a pivotal role in developing life and motor skills, as well as colour recognition, tracking, and supporting students to develop and grow their communication skills. 

 Our services at Seashell

At Seashell, we believe that every child, regardless of their unique abilities, deserves the chance to thrive and reach their full potential. If you suspect your child may have sensory processing disorder, remember that you’re not alone.  

Seek the support and guidance of professionals and connect with others who have walked a similar path. With the right interventions and a loving, understanding environment, children with SPD can lead fulfilling lives and achieve their dreams.