My child's teacher said that he may have something called Sensory Processing Disorder. What exactly is that?

Does your daughter hate to have her hair brushed? Is your son annoyed by tags in the back of his clothing? Does your child complain that loud noises or bright lights are bothersome? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a child with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Sensory Processing Disorder, also called Sensory Integration Dysfunction, is a condition in which an individual has challenges taking in the various sensations from the environment and integrating them in order to react appropriately to his surroundings.

We all have five basic senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. There are also three additional senses: the sensory system that processes movement or action, the system that tells where our body is located in space, and the system that lets us know how we "feel" internally. Each of these systems sends sensory input to the brain, and the brain then interprets, organizes, and processes that input.

In the case of a child with SPD, the brain is not able to perform these processes in an efficient manner; the nervous system is "wired differently," causing the child to react inappropriately to the sensory input.

For example, when a child with SPD has her hair brushed, the scratchy sensation of the brush may feel painful to her scalp, causing her to cry out or become agitated. For another child, the tag in the back of a shirt may feel more than just annoying, it can be extremely uncomfortable.

There a many different symptoms of SPD, depending on which sensory system(s) are impaired. What follows is a list of possible signs of SPD:

  • Poor sleep patterns.
  • Clumsiness.
  • Over or under reaction to cold or hot temperatures.
  • Aversion to certain food textures, typical grooming activities, loud noises, large crowds, certain smells, or bright lights.
  • Aversion to certain textures or to messy materials such as play dough and finger paints.
  • Difficulty with transitions

These symptoms can influence a child's ability to interact socially and ultimately lead to problems at home and school. If you suspect that your child has SPD, consult with an occupational or physical therapist who has experience treating children diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder.


Developmental Pro, Anne Zachry

Anne Zachry, Ph.D. is a pediatric occupational therapist, child development specialist and mother of three. She's had articles published on, Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine online, has written a parenting course for Daily OM, and writes for a variety of regional parenting magazines.

Dr. Zachry's research has been published in national peer-reviewed journals, including The Southern Medical Journal, The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, and The Occupational Therapy Journal of Research, and she's had articles published in her profession's trade magazines, Advance and OT Practice. She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, and she has also given numerous presentations to parents and teachers on a variety of topics related to infant and childhood development.

Her websites are Dr. Anne Zachry and Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tips.


My four-year-old has been potty trained for ages, but still wets at night. We've tried to put him in underwear at night, but we end up changing sheets all night long. We're tired of the broken sleep! How long will this go on?

First, some good news: the sleep interruption won't last forever. While it's highly common for a 4-year-old to wear a diaper to bed, 88 percent of kids achieve nighttime dryness by age six. Until then, parents can help pave the way for dry nights (and fewer nighttime laundry emergencies) with these tips:

  • Start with realistic expectations. Doctors don't define "bedwetting" until six years of age. In fact, nighttime dryness often lags behind daytime dryness by months or years. Boys typically train more slowly than girls, and kids who are exceptionally deep sleepers and those with developmental delays may have more difficulty with nighttime wetting as well.
  • Don't automatically assume your daytime-dry child is ready to ditch diapers at night. If she is wetting the bed most nights, she may lack the developmental maturity to stay dry all night — this is normal. Contrary to what you may have heard, putting her to bed in underwear before she's ready won't speed this maturational process. Using training pants at night can help save everyone's sleep, and it won't compromise daytime potty training success.
  • Chips, pretzels, soda, and chocolate aren't great choices for bedtime snacks. Salty foods and caffeine have been shown to increase nighttime urination.
  • Line your child's mattress with several layers of fitted sheets and waterproof mattress pads. When a sheet gets wet, simply strip it off along with the mattress pad, and your child will have a fresh, dry sheet (and you can deal with the laundry in the morning).


Sleep Pro, Malia Jacobson

Malia Jacobson has been helping tired families sleep since 2007. She is a writer, editor, nationally-published sleep journalist, and author of "Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep, So You Can Sleep Too." Her sleep articles reach millions in respected print publications.

Malia's articles have been featured in over 70 news outlets and publications, including ABC News, Women's Health Magazine, Costco Connection Magazine, Seattle's Child Magazine, ParentMap Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, San Diego Family Magazine,and Cincinnati Family Magazine. She is a contributing writer at Family Time Magazine and Broward Family Life Magazine.

She holds a bachelor's degree in communication and a master's degree in business administration/marketing. When she's not writing, she organizes a popular attachment parenting group in her hometown of Tacoma, Washington, digs in her garden, and explores the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two young daughters.