Share |

Printable version of this page (pdf)

Sensory Integration Dysfunction/Sensory Processing Disorder


Sensory Integration Dysfunction is not yet included in the DSM-IV manual but is recognized by many professionals.

Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID), also called sensory processing disorder is a neurological disorder causing difficulties with processing information from the five classic senses (vision, auditory, touch, smell, and taste), the sense of movement (vestibular system), and/or the positional sense (proprioception). They vary from person to person in characteristics and how severe the symptoms are. Some symptoms may include tags on clothing, bright lights, noises, smells.

Sensory Integration Dysfunction is not yet included in the DSM-IV manual but is recognized by many professionals. There is no known cure; however, there are many treatments available. Not everybody agrees that this is a disorder and it is only diagnosed when the sensory behaviour interferes significantly with all activities of daily living. Co-morbid conditions are common – anxiety, ADHD, Fragile X and Autism Spectrum Disorders to mention just a few. There are 3 types classified:

  • Type I – Sensory Modulation Disorder – Under or over response to stimuli or trying to find stimulation.
  • Type II – Sensory Based Motor Disorder – Output is disorganized due to processing information incorrectly.
  • Type III – Sensory Discrimination Order – Sensory discrimination challenges.

Symptoms of Sensory Integration Dysfunction

(Reproduced with permission from the Apraxia-Kids Web page)

Sensory Symptoms
  • Responds negatively to unexpected or loud noises
  • Holds hands over ears
  • Cannot walk with background noise
  • Seems oblivious within an active environment
  • Prefers to be in the dark
  • Hesitates going up and down steps
  • Avoids bright lights
  • Stares intensely at people or objects
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Avoids certain tastes/smells that are typically part of children’s diets
  • Routinely smells non-food objects
  • Seeks out certain tastes or smells
  • Does not seem to smell strong odours
Body Position
  • Continually seeks out all kinds of movement activities
  • Hangs on other people, furniture, objects, even in familiar situations
  • Seems to have weak muscles, tires easily, has poor endurance
  • Walks on toes
  • Becomes anxious or distressed when feet leave the ground
  • Avoids climbing or jumping
  • Avoids playground equipment
  • Seeks all kinds of movement and this interferes with daily life
  • Takes excessive risks while playing, has no safety awareness
  • Avoids getting messy in glue, sand, finger paint, tape
  • Is sensitive to certain fabrics (clothing, bedding)
  • Touches people and objects at an irritating level
  • Avoids going barefoot, especially in grass or sand
  • Has decreased awareness of pain or temperature
Attention, Behaviour and Social
  • Jumps from one activity to another frequently and it interferes with play
  • Has difficulty paying attention
  • Is overly affectionate with others
  • Seems anxious
  • Is accident prone
  • Has difficulty making friends, does not express emotions

As with any other disorder, if you think your child may be experiencing sensory dysfunction issues seek the help of a professional. A referral to an Occupational Therapist with knowledge of this disorder would be preferred.


Useful resources/links for Sensory Integration Dysfunction:
Apraxia Kids -
Tourette Syndrome Plus -
Waterloo Region Family Network - or 519-804-1786
Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation: