Sensory Processing Disorder




Children born prematurely have atypical Sensory Profiles

…this study provides data that children born prematurely exhibit atypical or uncommon sensory behaviours across multiple sensory domains or areas. Our findings add credence to anecdotal reports that children born prematurely process sensory stimuli in an atypical (different) manner.” 
AC Wickremasinghe,1 EE Rogers,1 BC Johnson,1 A Shen,2 AJ Barkovich,3 and EJ Marco4,5

Sensory processing difficulties are more common in children born preterm. In this study 39% of the 107 preterm children assessed had an atypical score on the Sensory Profile, which is a questionnaire about how children respond to different sensations in their daily life.

A Path From Childhood Sensory Processing Disorder to Anxiety Disorders:  The Mediating Role of Emotional Dysregulation and Adult Sensory Processing Disdorder Symptoms

“…We found that sensory processing impairments in childhood may increase the risk of anxiety disorders through difficulties with emotion regulation or SPD symptoms in adulthood.”
Kibby McMahon,1,2,* Deepika Anand,2 Marissa Morris-Jones,2 and M. Zachary Rosenthal1,2

This study was of adults who reported that they had sensory processing difficulties as children. Some adults who have sensory processing difficulties in childhood continue to experience sensory processing difficulties in adolescence and adulthood. Individuals with sensory processing difficulties may also have an emotional response to different sensations, including feeling anxious in some situations.


Does a child outgrow Sensory Processing problems? The answer is still being researched…like the condition there are many factors that can affect SPD.  With more research we will be able to see the aging process of children with sensory processing difficulties. But we do know that there is research that has shown a strong connection between SPD symptoms in childhood can still be present in adulthood.

For Example:

  • An over reaction to situations or events that seem overwhelming, and/or having difficulty identifying why you are upset or what caused you to react
  • Difficulties with balance, trouble sitting still, poor attention and focus, disorganisation
  • Accident-prone, clumsiness, poor coordination
  • Problems tolerating clothing, bathing, grooming, dentists or doctors
  • Overwhelmed by shopping at stores or malls
  • Problems with driving
  • Problems with relationships or socialising

We know that a child with problems with sensory processing can have feelings of being “different” or emotions that may feel out of control when their sensory diffiuculties are not supported so it’s not uncommon to see this in adulthood. This may also look like anxiety or feelings of depression. There are so many influences that are considered when determining how SPD plays out in the life of an adult. People can adapt and find ways to meet their needs and find support from other's who have similar difficulties.  Occupational therapists can also provide advice and intervention which may include sensory and adapting daily activities.

Just as we have learned our own sensory preferences (e.g. some adults like soft music when they need to calm down, others like to go for a run, others need the oral input of drinking coffee, or a quiet space), adults with sensory difficulties also will have found what works for them over the years and found ways to adapt  meet their needs. Occupational Therapist’s can assist with how to identify what will work best.


There are occupational therapists and psychologist who specialize in support and treatment for adults with sensory processing difficulties. This may include education about adapting daily activities and how to respond with less anxiety in different situations, such as in your adult home life, relationships and workplace.  This aims to help with the anxiety, depression and feelings of being different that could be felt in adulthood.  

One approach that a therapist may use is helping people understand their reactions to SPD symptoms such as, changes in heart rate, breathing patterns, and muscle tension and to give them strategies to help with their responses. 

As we have seen the effects of prematurity can still extend into the adult years but there is treatment and a supportive family and education can make the biggest difference. Advocating for the needs for our adult children can also empower us as parents and set the stage for change for future families of premature children.

Sensory Processing Awareness Month is October

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].