Whether it’s the flickering of a fluorescent light, the humming of an air conditioner, the scratching of a clothing tag on the back of a neck, the mingling of smells in a school cafeteria, or a specific food texture, children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) struggle through ordinary, daily life. Sometimes sensations are too much, other times too little, but rarely is the sensation “just right.


As a pediatric occupational therapist, I encounter many real life “princesses” who are so sensitive that typical everyday sensory stimulation results in internal and external distress. Whether it’s the flickering of a fluorescent light, the humming of an air conditioner, the scratching of a clothing tag on the back of a neck, the mingling of smells in a school cafeteria, or a specific food texture, children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) struggle through ordinary, daily life. Sometimes sensations are too much, other times too little, but rarely is the sensation “just right.

”Sensory processing is the brain’s ability to receive information from the senses, interpret and organize that information, and produce a functional motor or behavioral response. Sensory Processing Disorder occurs when the brain misinterprets ordinary sensory information resulting in a negative behavior or motor response. Think of it as a traffic jam of the neurons and receptors in the brain. Although they are often intelligent, children with Sensory Processing Disorder frequently have difficulty with motor coordination, learning, and social skills. In many cases, they also struggle with low self-esteem.

​Sensory Processing Disorder may cause children to be sensory seekers or sensory avoiders. Sensory seekers are the children who constantly wiggle, fidget, play too roughly, and can’t keep their hands to themselves. Sensory avoiders, on the other hand, are the children who are often so sensitive that normal sensations cause them great anxiety. These children may cover their ears at the sound of a vacuum cleaner or have a very limited diet due to an inability to tolerate different textures of foods.

Occupational therapists receive specialized training in the evaluation and treatment of SPD as well as many other special needs. Through careful evaluation, occupational therapists are able to analyze a child’s sensory profile and develop a treatment program of specifically selected sensory experiences that are challenging yet fun.

​At Coastal Kids Therapy we provide state-of-the art occupational therapy in a warm and positive environment celebrating the individuality of each child while helping each to reach his or her full potential. We have over 20 years experience providing therapy for children with a wide range of sensory, motor, developmental, learning and behavioral difficulties. We provide a fun, playful and nurturing environment with much of the therapy taking place in our sensory-rich therapy gym. With a focus on sensory processing as the basis for all development, we develop programs focused on the specific needs of each child. For children with sensory processing disorders, we will develop a sensory diet of structured sensory experiences provided throughout the child’s day in appropriate and meaningful ways in order to help the child feel calm and alert. Whether the child with SPD is interpreting daily sensations as “too much” or whether their brain is registering “too little” sensation, the expertise of our occupational therapists can help the child regulate their sensory system and learn coping mechanisms so that they can ultimately feel “just right.”

Thoughts From Our Therapists 

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Too Much, Too Little, Just Right
From: “Meet the Expert” Wilmington Parent, July 2012 Issue.
Laurel Thornton, OTR/L


“Nobody but a real princess could be that sensitive .” Thus goes the story of the Princess and the Pea. So sensitive was the real princess that a tiny pea under twenty mattresses kept her awake and miserable all night.
As a pediatric occupational therapist, I encounter many real life “princesses” who are so sensitive that typical everyday sensory stimulation results in internal and external distress.