Sensory Processing


Sensory Processing at Imagine…


Behaviours associated with sensory processing difficulties can overlap with other issues. We will assess using discussion, questionnaires, observation and sensory play sessions as needed.


Once we know what the issues are around sensory processing we can address these. Sometimes this means adding in strategies to cope or working directly on areas that are difficult. An assessment with recommendations might be enough, or we might work with you for longer to develop skills and strategies.

Emotional regulation

Emotional regulation is about how we manage our feelings so that we can concentrate, listen and get on with others. Emotional regulation is really tricky if you’re struggling with sensory processing. Its also hard when you’re struggling with your mental health. We can help you or your child if you struggle in this area.


We can combine talking therapy with sensory processing work for trauma. You may have a diagnosis of PTSD or may not. If you have experienced trauma and find yourself struggling with sensory processing then this approach may be relevant for you.

Self care for mental health

As we all have sensory preferences, we can use these to develop our own self care for positive mental health. We can consider sensory preferences and using our senses for self care as part of our mental health services.

Associated issues

Sensory processing affects important developmental skills such as play, social communication and emotional recognition. We can help with these as part of treatment.

We use our senses in everything we do. We are constantly being confronted with sensory information and our brain has to filter this out so that we can understand and interact with the world. This process of collecting, filtering and interpreting sensory information is known as sensory processing.

Most of us can name the five senses – touch, smell, taste, hearing, sight. We now know of three more: vestibular – your sense of balance; proprioception – your sense of where you body parts are; and interoception – your sense of body sensations.

We all have sensory preferences. You might love spicy food and strong tastes. You might hate certain sounds or find other sounds soothing. You might be a tactile person or find touch uncomfortable. For some people, it goes beyond preferences and sensory processing is a problem. Often because the sensory information coming in is being filtered too much or not enough. Studies suggest that 5-16% of children have a sensory processing disorder (Ahn, Miller et. al., 2004; Ben-Sasoon, Carter et. al., 2009).

Sensory processing difficulties are very common in autism.

Researchers have suggested 69-93% of people with autism also have difficulties with sensory processing (Baranek et al., 2006; Billstedt et al., 2007; Klintwall et al., 2011; Leekam et al., 2007)

Sensory processing difficulties are common with ADHD.

One study found that 40% of children with ADHD also had sensory processing difficulties (Ahn, Miller et. al., 2004).

Signs of difficulties with sensory processing

Usually sensory processing difficulties are seen in children. Signs that you or your child might have a difficulty with sensory processing include:

  • Avoidance of certain textures. This could include irritability or emotional outbursts with everyday self-care activities such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, combing hair, washing. Only wanting to wear certain clothes. Avoiding messy play. Or seeking out certain textures.
  • Sensitivities around certain noises – it might be loud or high pitched sounds, or may struggle to listen when there is a lot of background noise.
  • Disliking surprise touch and hugs. May dislike crowds or being close to others. Or constantly needing to touch people.
  • Not understanding personal space. Might have clumsy or uncoordinated movements.
  • Being picky about food
  • Not noticing or having a high tolerance of pain.
  • Is cautious in the playground. Might not enjoy running games. Might avoid swings or climbing on playground equipment. Or might seem unable to sit still and be fidgety. Might enjoy play like spinning and jumping.

The impact of sensory processing difficulties

Difficulties with sensory processing can impact on all parts of everyday life for children. Here are some examples of areas that might be affected:

  • Self-care activities such as washing, dressing, eating, brushing hair
  • Joining in with social relationships and developing social skills
  • Developing fine motor skills such as handwriting and gross motor skills such as ball play and riding a bike
  • Participating in activities and attending to classwork at school
  • Engaging in play

Sensory processing and trauma

There is a growing recognition of the significance our bodies have in the experience of trauma. When we experience trauma our body can go into a heightened state of arousal. We can be ‘on the lookout’ for danger even when the danger has passed. This high arousal state has an impact on our sensory processing. Sounds can appear louder, colours brighter. This can make it difficult to concentrate and can feel exhausting and scary.