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How Is Sensory Processing Disorder Diagnosed?

Maybe it was when your kid decided that even the softest cotton shirt was too uncomfortable to wear. Or when your child had another epic meltdown in the grocery store for no apparent reason. At some point, you began to wonder whether your kid's behavior indicated an underlying problem. If these scenarios sound familiar, then you may wonder how is sensory processing disorder diagnosed, and how do I know if my kid needs to be tested for it?  

Persons with sensory processing disorder (SPD) have trouble receiving and interpreting sensory information, as explained in WebMD, and this problem may show up in a number of ways. For instance, a child with SPD may exhibit signs of clumsiness, an aversion to light or noise, and a tendency to crash into walls or other people, as noted by the Child Mind Institute. Of course, these behaviors can show up from time to time in most kids — who isn't a little clumsy when learning to walk? — so that's why it may be a smart move to have your kid checked out for SPD by professionals. You don't want to stress over normal developmental behavior, of course, but you also don't want to miss any potential warning signs.

Diagnosis, however, may not be a simple process. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, SPD is not yet regarded as an official diagnosis. In other words, it is not officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The DSM-5 is basically the bible for mental health professionals, so without its input, there is not an official consensus on the best way to identify and help children who appear to have symptoms of SPD. Fortunately, concerned parents can still seek help for their children from professionals.

According to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder, the disorder can be identified by professional experts, and you can then seek out appropriate treatment techniques. You may need to do a bit of research to find someone such as an occupational therapist in your area who will work with SPD kids. Asking your pediatrician for a referral may be a good start. In general, you should be able to find an expert who is qualified to work with your child and determine if treatment for sensory processing disorder is the appropriate next step.