Millstone Township Visual Processing

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Empowered Learning Transformation Centers

Professional Counseling for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory processing disorder is a complex neurological disorder affecting approximately 5–17% of the population, yet professional counselors often misunderstand and misdiagnose this disorder. A child’s academic, emotional and social functioning can be substantially impacted by sensory processing disorder; early diagnosis and treatment is crucial. In this article, the authors describe the disorder, discuss its impact on children and their families, and provide recommendations and resources for both mental health counselors and school counselors to utilize when serving this unique population with special needs. A case study is included, in addition to suggestions for treatment collaboration and advocacy on behalf of clients with sensory processing disorder.


Children experience the world through their senses—the sound of the air conditioner running in their classroom, the feel of a chair under their legs, the sight of a colorful wall, the smell of food cooking, the muscle movement used to pick up a toy. The typical child can accurately perceive, process and respond to the myriad stimuli in their environment, focusing on important stimuli, such as a parent’s voice, and filtering out unimportant ones, such as a humming refrigerator. For other children, the same environment and accompanying stimuli can be uncomfortable, overwhelming, unnoticeable and even frightening. Researchers estimate that approximately 5–17% of the population has sensory processing disorder (SPD), a neurological disorder in which sensory input is irregularly sensed, processed, organized, and responded to, creating sensory challenges that negatively impact daily , As a result of poor sensory processing, individuals with SPD may overreact or underreact to SPD is a lifelong disorder; while typically developing children gain the ability to increasingly suppress stimuli with age, children with SPD tend to struggle throughout their lifetime, particularly if SPD is unidentified, misdiagnosed or inaccurately treated.


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