spd toolsSensory Processing Disorder - SPD - and Complementary Therapies for Older Children and Adults–

In job related situations or educational settings sometimes there are difficulties for some people in keeping track of information, staying organized, learning new required information quickly, and feeling stable in employment or education. Often the cause is Sensory Processing Disorder, with specific combinations of difficulty with proprioceptive, vestibular and other senses.  In being evaluated by the work or school environment the result is usually a person being quickly and constantly labeled ADHD/ADD. There is often a physical impact/cause involved, resulting in sensory difficulties.

It is important to find timely strategies that can WORK for adults in demanding jobs and older children in demanding educational environments, especially for motivated persons who want to change and grow. SPD is a term that can include aspects of PTSD, ADD, ADHD, Autism, PTSD, Aspergers and even temporary stress related difficulties.

If you have questions or thoughts about you or someone you know and SPD, you can speak to me, go to my contact page or make an appointment at:

Victoria Behrends RCST®, HHP, M.A., MH, credential  - 760-753-1493 and my other website:   www.sensoryprocessingbugs.com

----- Sensory Processing Disorder also has been known as Sensory Integration Disorder, interfering with the proprioception, self regulation and sensory processing of people who have learning disabilities, trauma related difficulties and many other behavioral and physical conditions. Modulation and self-regulation can be taught, craniosacral therapy and somatic/trauma therapy can be implemented, nutritional support can assist, sound therapy can make a difference and a sense of calm and safety can promote the most important solution.

Sensory integration is critical in child development and can often be compromised by difficult births, or early childhood experiences that limit exposure to sensory development. Adult trauma or illness in life can impact sensory integration, developing conditions that are problematic, developing sensory difficulties early or late in life.....

Studies show that as many as five percent of all children suffer from SPD, yet information and help for those with this disorder is still very limited. A lack of insurance or school-based diagnostic resources combined with the fact that SPD often looks like other disorders frequently results in misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment for children and adults.” (SPD FOUNDATION – spdfoundation.net)

Adults in the work or educational environment can find it difficult to keep track of categories and lists of work to be done, follow directions that are thrown at them, keep order in required settings and wonder what they can to do to improve, especially if exams or job reviews are coming up.

----- Trauma Connection

There is a connection of traumatic experience, physical and emotional-- and developed SPD.  We can see that with Wounded Warriors, trauma survivors, sports injuries and even extraordinary chronic stress.

The trauma connection is often key. Trauma author Robert Scaer, MD (The Trauma Spectrum) and international occupational therapist, Ana do Valle, OTR, SEP shared their experiences and work and success in treating victims of major world traumas onsite, using techniques developed to treat Sensory Processing Disorder that was clearly evident after these events occurred.  in our workshops we learned the connections with SPD, brain physiology and the physiology of trauma. We were able to apply identification and practical intervention techniques for regulating sensory processing skills that I have used extensively since that time in my own work. As a sensory integration therapist she remarks:

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is recognized as a major cause of self impairment in children, adolescents and adults. It is commonly present in behavioral conditions such as anxiety disorder, PTSD, ADHD and leaning disabilities. SPD may contribute to the development of many poorly understood physical diseases and syndromes.” Ana do Valle

In an interview with me, Robert Scaer, MD discussed this connection of SPD and complex trauma:

SPD is the behaviorial seed that sprouts and flourishes, rendering the child exquisitely sensitive to events that might be at all traumatic. It is based on the cyclical autonomic dysregulation of trauma, with both extremes of autonomic expression. But rather than the restricted and inadequate diagnosis of PTSD, the syndrome that emerges with maturation is complex trauma...SPD and complex trauma are the closest of relatives. In both cases the treatment is primarily somatic in nature and quality because words only address the tip of the iceberg.” (Interview with neurologist Robert Scaer, MD and Victoria Behrends, 9/19/11)

The significance here is that SPD treatment must include a look at possible trauma connections, current or from the past-------trauma resolution work in addition to other therapies can address some of the origins of sensory difficulties that have resulted from trauma. Dr. Scaer and Ana do Valle are the pioneers in this thinking and conduct seminars for other leaders in this field illustrating how to understand and work with this connection of SPD with trauma. Other trauma resolution therapies listed on my Articles page can also address sensory disorders---the explanation of the Concept of Safety is key in therapy.

----- Safety

Dr. Stephen Porges, author of The Polyvagal Theory stresses the importance of Safety in the Social Engagement System (see Articles for in depth view). He developed the Listening Project, conducted much research dr.stephenporges.com over the last forty years--and describes the components in his 2011 book-----that project is now the Safe And Sound Protocol, released in March 2017 to be implemented by professional therapists----with substantial results in treating Autism and other sensory disorders, anxiety---more ongoing studies may find many more applications. Stanley Rosenberg has worked with Dr. Porges to create the Social Engagement Protocol with craniosacral and body oriented applications to address trauma and other related conditions. www.stanleyrosenberg.com


SPD can look like ADHD and may be misdiagnosed. Traditional treatment for ADHD may be inapplicable for good results, including drug therapies in cases where SPD therapies and strategies would be the far more appropriate and effective answer for sensory integration development.

----- Some Characteristics

Sensory Processing Disorder characteristics are listed by the SPD Foundation and are on their “Red Flags” page (for full description go to their excellent website listed above:

CHILD - oversensitivity to touch, noise, smell, other people – clumsy; poor motor skills; easily distracted, fidgety, aggressive – easily overwhelmed, difficulty making friends – unaware of pain and/or other people – lethargic and slow – tasks uncompleted – difficulty staying focused – frequent or long temper tantrums

ADULT (though many characteristics above may apply as well)– difficulty staying focused at work or meetings – always on the go- easily distracted – poor esteem, afraid of failing at new tasks, oversensitive to touch, noise, smells – leaves tasks uncompleted

----- A TEAM can help:

There are intervention techniques and a TEAM APPROACH that can regulate the sensory processing that is impacted by the strength, timing and frequency of sensory stimuli. With that intervention and help there can be integration and self regulation within the nervous system.

NOTE: Only some Occupational Therapists are using techniques that have been pioneered for SPD. It is important to research for a therapist with the SPD background and the specific  certification required.

TEAM or Individual Therapies:

Craniosacral, Occupational, and Physical Therapy with therapists specifically trained in sensory disorders (many therapists do not have this training)-- are some of the many effective tools to develop sensory processing by using Cranial Therapy, a Sensory Diet, sensory therapy, Listening Therapy, and sensory integration activities.

Craniosacral Therapy balances the nervous system that is impaired by Sensory Processing Disorder and can support the system overall in resolving that trauma link.

Safe And Sound Protocol - a 5-day Listening Program---developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, based on the  Social Engagement System and his original Polyvagal Theory--designed as therapy for Autism, anxiety, with ongoing studies in Trauma, Depression--for both Children and Adults

Comprehensive Resource Modeling can be an effective tool, developed by Lisa Schwarz, M.Ed. from its origins of EMDR and Brainspotting, and can help to resolve trauma emotional and/or physical that may surround Sensory Processing Disorder. (See Articles on this website)

Sound therapies: Human Tuning, music, singing, humming

Sensory therapy is supported with craniosacral therapies and occupational therapy work that can open up the world to people with these difficulties. Sensory tools that have been and continue to be invented are making a difference in the lives of people who often have had little success with conventional treatment.

----- In my own work I use STRATEGIES for clients AND their family members in Strategy Sessions, with possible combinations of :

  • Craniosacral therapy
  • Stress and Trauma resolution, Comprehensive Resource Model (originating from Brainspotting, EMDR)

  • SPD techniques, self-regulation, sensory diet and sensory activities/teaching skills approach
  • Sound therapies
  • Strategies, Research, Resources
  • Nutrition Research/ Hair analysis
  • Brainworks - www.sensationalbrain.com - some activities can be applied with older children/adults
  • SensoryBugs® Strategies, Research, Resources

These Strategy Sessions can also be extremely effective with other disorders that involve SPD, already mentioned—Autism, Aspergers, PTSD, ADHD/ADD, and anxiety disorders. 

When a Strategy Session for an older child, teen or adult is combined with occupational therapy, craniosacral therapy, and perhaps nutritional analysis, and trauma resolution, and the Safety Sound Protocol-- there is effective communication and synergy among the members of a recommended team—OT, CST, teachers, psychologists, -- great improvement in strategies for sensory processing and self-regulation can be made.

An additional benefit of the Team approach is that the person feels supported and again, safer.

Victoria Behrends  - 760-753-1493 - or contact page