The truth is, it's not that simple!
I would love to tell you it is easy to get an assessment for Sensory Processing Difficulties. But the truth is, it is not that simple. Depending on where you are in the world, it may not even be recognised as an official diagnosis in its own right. But that should not belittle the challenges people who have sensory difficulties face, which are very real and often debilitating.
Certainly, in the UK there is no formal process. There is no stand-alone diagnosis or assessment that will tell you, you have SPD on its own. It is usually bolted onto other neurodiversities such as autism and ADHD. So you may get a diagnosis of autism with sensory processing challenges.
Having spoken with many Occupational Therapists over the years, I have yet to come across a single one that has ever seen SPD in isolation, they confirm that it is a co-morbidity of other conditions. But you can get an assessment for Sensory Processing Difficulties, in terms of the impact it has on your life or as part of a wider diagnosis.
So what exactly is SPD?
Simply put, it is when a person has difficulty interpreting the signals from the senses around them. Usually, people fall into two camps for each sense. (of which there are eight by the way… read more about that here). Hypersensitive (when someone overreacts to stimuli) and Hyposenstive (when someone underreacts to stimuli). You can however have a mix and it can depend on the environment you are in, how well you have slept and other factors.
Despite the fact there is no formal diagnostic tool or assessment available, does not mean the challenges of those with SPD are not real, frightening, distressing and can be life-limiting.
It may also worth while doing your own assessment for Sensory Processing Difficulties, by keeping a diary of how your senses are impacting your life.
How can SPD impact someones life?
This is as varied as snowflakes and is very personal to each individual. SPD can have a very dramatic impact on how someones manages everyday tasks that others can manage with ease. Examples include: tying shoelaces, toilet training, writing, socialising, sleeping, eating, time management, what they can wear. The list is long and it can be incredibly life-limiting and debilitating.
So can anyone actually give me an assessment?
Yes, but not a diagnosis of SPD. We would recommend seeking out an OT (occupational therapist) who has specialised in Sensory Integration Therapy. They will be able to provide an assessment for Sensory Processing Difficulties in terms of how it impacts your life and what could be done to help.
Sensory Integration is all about helping people integrate with their senses in a very controlled and measured way. It is a specialist area, so it is important you look for someone with the right background and training. A sensory integration therapist will be able to assess how the symptoms of SPD impact a persons day to day life, at home, at school, or at work. From here they will be able to suggest strategies to help manage these and improve a person’s quality of life and ability to function in society.
Start by Discovering Your SPD Profile
A great place to start!
We have over a decade of experience in the world of SPD and have developed a fantastic tool, to help you understand your own unique sensory profile. It is not an assessment or diagnosis but will highlight the senses that have the biggest impact on your life. Giving this a go and taking it with you to a sensory integration OT, will be a great starting point for your conversation. It only takes 5 minutes and is completely free.Discover Your Sensory Profile