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Sensory Processing Disorder Test and Explanation

Sensory Processing Disorder Test and Explanation

About SPD- Is There a Sensory Processing Disorder Test for Adults?
by NeuroSpark Health


About sensory processing disorder

Before you begin looking for a sensory processing disorder test, it can be helpful to understand what sensory processing disorder is. Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a term used to describe a combination of differences in the mechanisms of the sensory system- a part of the nervous system that helps our brain receive,understand, interpret, and integrate what sensations are being felt by our bodies. Our sensory receptors enable our brain to sense pain, pleasure, temperature, sights, sounds, touch, textures, tastes, smells, pressure, position, and movement. Our sensory system helps us receive information, register this information, and connect with the environment around us.

For those with neurotypical brains, these complex processes generally happen swiftly and seamlessly. For neurodivergent people, many of us experience sensory processing issues. These signals and feelings can be disorganized, delayed, intense, uncomfortable, over- and/or under responsive. These differences often result in sensory-aversive, sensory-seeking, or mixed sensory profiles. The combination of the many sensory differences that we frequently live with can be described as sensory processing “disorder,” meaning our sensory system and its functioning diverges from neurotypical peoples way of receiving and integrating sensory information. It’s a commonly used term used to describe a pattern of atypical responses to sensory stimuli. 

In plain terms, sensory processing disorder is an umbrella term that encapsulates a wide variety of different -and oftentimes difficult-experiences with the world around us and its many different sources of stimuli. We may have an atypical response to sound, and it can feel extremely uncomfortable to be in loud environments. This could affect the way we move throughout the world and the types of environments we expose ourselves to. This could also inform specific accommodations we can make (such as noise-canceling or noise-filtering headphones) in order for us to comfortably be in spaces that are otherwise intolerable. In other situations, it can be difficult to accommodate. For example, having a sensitivity to fluorescent lighting but having to go to a brightly-lit office everyday. This creates extra stress for the brain and body, and can contribute to feeling drained and exhausted at the end of each work day. A neurodivergent person who is feeling overloaded, overstimulated, and overwhelmed may have an increased need for downtime and recovery. Allowing yourself increased time to rest and regulate is a way to self-accommodate in order to manage the daily stressors of having an overactive sensory system!

Is sensory processing disorder an official diagnosis?

While many members of the neurodivergent community and even medical providers use SPD in a clinical way, it’s technically not an official medical diagnosis. It’s actually been a topic of debate amongst professionals and lived experience advocates!

Sensory processing disorder is not listed in the DSM-5-TR or the ICD-11. It is argued that sensory processing differences are features of neurodivergent conditions including autism, ADHD, and PTSD. Some medical professionals argue that these differences are better understood as experiences of neurodivergent conditions, and others take the position that people can have sensory processing differences without meeting criteria for other diagnoses. Certain professionals and lived experience advocates have been pushing for SPD to be recognized as a standalone diagnosis and also call for further research into the condition. Whether or not SPD is a medically recognized diagnosis or not, it can be useful to understand and describe this lived experience.

Sensory processing disorder test
Is there a sensory processing disorder test? Because it is not an officially recognized medical diagnosis, a formal sensory processing disorder test currently does not exist. The closest thing to a sensory processing disorder test is a clinical sensory assessment by an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists may use a variety of sensory screening and assessment tools including Sensory Processing Measure (SPM-2), Sensory Integration Inventory, Developmental Test of Visual Perception (DTVP), The Allen Sensory Stimulation Kits I and II, Adolescent/Adult Sensory ProfileⓇ (AASP), The Sensory Modulation Screening Tool, The Sensory Profile (SP) and Short Sensory Profile (SSP), and more.

You can find some informal sensory processing test checklists online, including this one available on the Star Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder. This is not a diagnostic tool, but a self-report checklist that may be helpful as a starting point for those who want to learn more about their sensory differences.  Another sensory processing disorder test for adults (available in the form of a free self-report checklist) is available at OT Innovations.

If you decide to pursue a sensory processing disorder test in a formal, specialized setting, call your local occupational therapy practices and ask if they have experience evaluating and working with autistic adults. 

NeuroSpark honors your sensory differences
In our neurodiversity-affirming autism assessments for adults, we dive into the nuances of your unique sensory differences and preferences to form a comprehensive understanding of your lived experience. Our neurodiversity-affirming therapists help you identify your needs and encourage you to honor them. It could also mean that you could benefit from workplace accommodations for your sensory differences.