Sensory Processing Disorder




Sensory processing disorder in preterm infants during early childhood and relationships to early neurobehaviour

Justin Ryckman 1Claudia Hilton 2Cynthia Rogers 3Roberta Pineda 4

Preterm infants are at an increased risk for developing a sensory processing disorder. Medical and sociodemographic factors related to sensory processing disorder could not be isolated in this study, however relationships between sensory processing disorder and early neurobehavior were identified.

Research for this age group is limited to younger ages at this time.  If you are able to recommend any research for this topic and age please email [email protected]  


The teenage years and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) could make things a bit challenging with hormones that normally change at this age exacerbating sensory processing difficulties and making them more sensitive to input than they were in the past. The normal changes in adolescence can also make them moodier and more emotionally sensitive. Especially in females the time of menstruation each month has been seen to enhance sensory processing difficulties.

What is helpful and what is not:

  • In the past a trip to the Occupational Therapist could help with the issues at hand but taking your now 5-6 ft child to see the paediatric OT might make your teenager feel embarrassed or have the attitude that we don’t see them as the immerging independent thinkers they are becoming. It’s important to find an OT that can work with a teenager and their families/carers to give them the respect they need to nurture themselves into taking on a self-help role that would be useful as a young adult because they are on their way there right now.
  • Most teenagers even without SPD have a huge desire to fit in to their peer-groups and teenagers with SPD would have had years of trying to fit in so low self esteem could be fuelling new emerging problems. Self esteem supportive help could be the first port of call for this group of kids because some sensory processing difficulties can be hard to understand and make them feel different.
  • Our teenagers with SPD can at this time be the same size as adults so this could be a disadvantage as the expectations of their behaviour could be met with frustration by all involved. Modify expectations and reassure our teens to be patient with themselves. This can be a hidden disability.
  • Transition activities of sensory diet to a teen friendly role. Teach them to cook or garden or exercise activities that are age appropriate. A gym membership if possible can be useful. Gym activities provide heavy work (push/pull) activities which is calming to the nervous system.
  • What we, as parents say matters! You may not be aware how much your teen is hearing so make sure their sensory difficulties are not a long-term burden but a self-care activity that all young adults need to do but just include their own personal sensory diet. Be positive and to the point. Give them the control as much as possible. This will make them more likely to receive this information. For example, the brushing technique (Wilbarger Therapressure Protocol) can be done in private.
  • Once in High School there will be opportunities to join extracurricular activities and this will help them find their ‘Group’ they fit into or their ‘Thing’ that makes people take notice. Most kids at this age are finding themselves and what they like and what they are good at and ‘known for’.  It’s an exciting time and could also be a stressful time so encouragement is key.
  • Self-care meditation and soothing sensory regimes can be popular at this time so join in to make up their own routine!! They can even share this idea with friends and help them as well if they feel comfortable.
  • Making sure that we encourage having regular breaks and teaching our teens that it is okay to ask for a break or to recognise when they need to withdraw from a situation that is overwhelming e.g. loud or bright environment. The nervous system can easily become overwhelmed and without engaging in something to bring the arousal level down it can quickly lead to frustration, meltdown or withdrawal.
  • Anxiety at this stage of development can become more noticeable as teens are aware of the situations that are most difficult for them so consistency is key. Help them to plan ahead for specific situations so they feel comfortable to participate in everyday activities.


Updating the Sensory Diet to age appropriate skills can help your teenager feel more independent and understand more about how certain activities can help them in their daily lives.   Include your teen in the discussion and work on this together.

Letting your teenager have the control over their choices could be empowering for them and for yourself too. Research shows that sensory strategies work best when developed in co-creation (

When we see that our child is having trouble, it can be really difficult for us because we love them so much and we have seen them go through a difficult start in their lives. It can be an adjustment over time to understand what these problems are and how to help our child. Sometimes we can change our point of view of difficult circumstances to help ourselves during stressful times of seeking answers to problems or diagnosis’. We can sometimes look at things as problems but are really opportunities to improve the quality of life for our teens. Being knowledgeable about sensory issues creates a giant opportunity to educate people on this issue. This a fairly new disorder and education will help other family’s like yourself get the early intervention that makes a huge difference in the world of families faced by prematurity or illness at birth.

So, take care of yourself.  Make sure you are getting enough sleep and eating right and talking to the right supportive people. How you are feeling matters and makes a huge difference in how you get through difficult times.

Meditation can be helpful and exercise too.

October is Sensory Processing Awareness Month 

Useful links:

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Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances.To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].