Sensory Processing Disorder and Chiropractic Care

by Dr. Jessica Caruso – Prenatal and Family Chiropractor

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder resulting from the brain’s inability to integrate everyday sensory information received from the five senses: touch, vision, sound, smell, and taste.(1)

The five senses mentioned above are commonly known. However, there are 2 other senses, rarely known but extremely important: vestibular and proprioceptive systems.
The vestibular system is physiologically located in the cerebellum (base of brain), upper cervical spine (top of neck) and inner ear. The vestibular system is responsible for regulating all incoming sensory information and is considered the most important sensory system. The proprioceptive system is located throughout the spine and joints of the body. Disruption of this system may lead to problems with learning, motor skills, behavior, and social / emotional development. (1)

It is estimated that 1 in 20 children suffers from SPD. Children with SPD are often misdiagnosed as having ADD, ADHD, or other neurodevelopmental disorders. This misdiagnosis may be due to the fact that SPD often co-exists with ADD, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, OCD, anxiety disorder, traumatic brain injury, and learning disabilities. These children are usually misunderstood and labeled as aggressive, clumsy, inattentive, or difficult. (1)

Some signs your child may have SPD:

Touch: they may avoid or crave touch, get irritated by certain clothing (ex: tags, sock seams) and food textures (1)
Smell: may be susceptible to allergies, may need to excessively smell toys, items, people (1)
Taste: “picky eaters”, exhibit pica (eating non-edible items like chalk, crayons, dirt, etc.) (1)
Vision: difficulty going down stairs, poor hand-eye coordination, eye discomfort when required to perform visual work like reading, frequent headaches and stomach upset after school, may need to read out loud to keep place (1)
Auditory: may be upset with loud or unexpected noises, hum and sing to screen out unwanted noises, bothered by clock ticking, refrigerator humming, air conditioner on, cover ears a lot, speak loudly (1)
Proprioception: may need physical contact with another person, may exhibit hysteria over washing hair, pulling shirts over head, difficulty falling asleep, sleep walking, and are clumsy (1)

Chiropractic care is an essential treatment for these children. Properly functioning vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems are key components in developing and maintaining a healthy sensory processing system. Because these two sensory systems are largely located in the spine, it is extremely important to remove any spinal misalignments with a chiropractic adjustment that may be causing nerve interference.

Family wellness chiropractors are also well versed in proper nutrition. It is important to avoid certain foods and add certain foods into the diet for treatment of SPD. Refined sugar, food preservatives, and food colorings should be avoided. Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish (wild caught) such as salmon, tuna, and trout, and dark green leafy vegetables and flaxseed oil are considered good “brain food.” Dairy-free and gluten-free diets may also be helpful for these children (1). Keeping a food journal and reviewing it with your family chiropractor is advised.

Exercising your child’s brain is highly recommended. Today children spend more time in car seats, walkers, and other places that restrict movement and impair neurodevelopment. As children get older they are spending more time in front of a computer, playing video games, or texting, and not enough time running, jumping, skipping, climbing, swinging and crawling. Activities that involve using both sides of the body are necessary for proper development (1).

Other things to consider:

  • Drink Water: Water comprises more of the brain than any other organ of the body. Having children drink water before and during class can help “grease the wheel.” Drinking water is very important before stressful situations like taking tests (2).
  • Cross-Crawl Exercises: This exercise helps coordinate right and left brain by exercising the information flow between the two hemispheres. It is useful for spelling, writing, listening, reading and comprehension (2).
  • Brain Buttons: This exercise helps improve blood flow to the brain to “switch on” the entire brain before a lesson begins. The increased blood flow helps improve concentration skills required for reading and writing (2).
  • Hook Ups: This works well for nerves before a test or special event like making a speech. These help calm the mind and improve concentration (2).
  • Listening to classical music such as Mozart may help improve the IQ (2).
  • Using Colored Pens: Using colored pens helps the right brain remember patterns (2).

Finding a chiropractor familiar with Paul E. Dennison, Ph.D. and Gail E. Dennison’s work is recommended.

To find a family wellness chiropractor near you visit


(1) Pathways to Family Wellness, Issue 19; What is Sensory Processing Disorder?, Monika Buerger, D.C.

(2) Brain Gym® Exercises,, Kenneth Beare