top of page

Neurodiversity Explained



Being neurodivergent means that an individual may think and learn in a different way to others.


Neurodiversity has a wide spectrum that covers a range of hidden neurological conditions, such as but not limited to Autism Spectrum, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, Tourette’s and social anxiety.


For some people, their neurodivergence can mean that they are better at some things than many other people and for others additional support or adjustments are required.




Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, like worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. It makes heart race and causes changes in behaviour. When it becomes a problem, worries are out of proportion with harmless situations and interfere with daily life.


Ability

Anxiety can be a difficult condition to live with, but there are some positives that can come from it. For example, people with anxiety are actually better at responding to threat than people without anxiety, since their brains process threat more efficiently. This has positive effects: As one study showed, people who have anxiety actually do avoid fatal accidents more than people without anxiety.


One of the ways anxiety can be a positive force in your life is if you channel your anxious nature into conscientiousness. Anxiety about getting cancer, for example, can lead to you being extra vigilant about applying sunscreen or going for routine pap smears.

People with anxiety have been shown to be more empathetic than individuals without it, as they have an increased ability to understand other people’s emotions. Having anxiety has moulded you into a more considerate individual. You think of others, and you do small things that make the difference for them.


Signs

All babies and children from time to time will experience some fear or anxiety. They might do so when they come up against challenging tasks, unfamiliar people (known as stranger anxiety) or when they are separated from their main caregiver (known as separation anxiety).


Children might also feel anxious when faced with new situations such starting nursery, moving house or the birth of a sibling.

Whilst it is possible for a child to suffer from acute anxiety, some occasional anxiety is completely normal for most children.


Next Steps

Talk to your child about their anxiety or worries. Reassure them and show them you understand how they feel

Teach your child about the brain and how it works

Encourage your child to manage their anxiety and ask for help when they need it

Teach your child relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation

Help your child build their confidence and focus on their strengths

Be aware of food and sleep triggers that can make anxiety worse

Be mindful of any changes to come and how it can effect an early years child and make sure that changes in routine and consistency is kept to a minimal.

Try not to repeatedly talk about any changes to come. For example when a child is starting nursery or about to become a sibling try not to talk too much about it and its meaning to an early years child and encourage family and friends not to use it as a talking point. Visual images of change are great in play and visits and books but conversations and comments like “You are a big boy/girl now” “How exciting you are going to big school” etc will not be understood and add to anxiety of change.



Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty which primarily affects reading and writing skills. However, it does not only affect these skills. Dyslexia is actually about information processing.


Abilities

Curiosity and a lively imagination

Creativity and thinking outside the box

Problem solving and seeing the bigger picture

Perception and intuition

Awareness of the environment

Ability to grasp new concepts and comprehend stories

Ability to think and perceive multi-dimensionally

Ability to distribute attention broadly


Signs

The following indicators may suggest that your child has a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) such as dyslexia. Many young children will display these behaviours and make these mistakes. It is the severity of the behaviour and the length of time it persists which give vital clues to identifying a difficulty such as dyslexia.

Indicators

Difficulty learning nursery rhymes

Difficulty paying attention, sitting still, listening to stories

Likes listening to stories but shows no interest in letters or words

Difficulty learning to sing or recite the alphabet

A history of slow speech development

Muddles words e.g. cubumber, flutterby

Difficulty keeping simple rhythm

Finds it hard to carry out two or more instructions at one time, (e.g. put the toys in the box, then put it on the shelf) but is fine if tasks are presented in smaller units

Forgets names of friends, teacher, colours etc.

Poor auditory discrimination

Confusion between directional words e.g. up/down

Family history of dyslexia/reading difficulties

Difficulty with sequencing e.g. coloured beads, classroom routines

Substitutes words e.g. "lampshade" for "lamppost"

Appears not to be listening or paying attention

Obvious 'good' and 'bad' days for no apparent reason


Next steps

There is a large body of research linking speech and language difficulties in early childhood to later literacy problems. Identifying potential speech and language problems as early as possible is really important as much can be done before a child starts school to develop their language skills. This will then support their reading development at school.

If you are worried about your child's speech and language development, speak to your GP or health visitor. If you think your child may be dyslexic, discuss your concerns with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) in your child's early years setting. Early help is vital to reduce the chance of loss of confidence and low self-esteem. A child can only be diagnosed with dyslexia through a Diagnostic Assessment but these are usually only carried out from 7 years old.




Trauma

Going through very stressful, frightening or distressing events is sometimes called trauma. When we talk about emotional or psychological trauma, we might mean: situations or events we find traumatic; how we're affected by our experiences.


Abilities

Trauma can result in positive outcomes, according to the study of posttraumatic growth. Many people increase in personal strength, appreciation of life, emotional intimacy with partners and family, creativity, sense of spirituality, and life possibilities following traumatic events. PTG is defined as positive psychological changes that result from struggling with traumatic events. These changes could bring a greater appreciation of life, more self-esteem and connectedness to others, a renewed sense of meaning and purpose.

Trauma can seriously disrupt important aspects of child development that occur before the age of three years. Childhood trauma survivors may experience learning problems, increased use of health and mental health services, increased involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and long-term health problems. Early childhood trauma has been associated with reduced size of the brain cortex, which is responsible for many complex functions including memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thinking, language, and consciousness. Childhood trauma can also impair physical development and mental health.


Signs

Some of the symptoms of trauma in children include too much or too little sleep, loss of appetite or overeating, unexplained irritability and anger, and problems focusing on projects, school work, and conversation. Some of the behavioural signs of trauma in children include having a low tolerance for frustration, showing signs of dissociation, being withdrawn, closed-off, not present, or shut down. Other signs include regressive behaviour or returning to an earlier stage of development. If you think your child might be traumatized, it is important to seek professional help.


Next Steps

Every child will respond to traumatic experiences differently.

Help them to rebuild trust and a sense of safety.

Talk about how you feel about the traumatic event to your child.

Ask about the child’s feelings and emotions about the traumatic event.

Maintain a regular family routine and avoid making significant changes.

Help them to build self-esteem.

Perform activities that will help them to relax.

Talk to your GP to be referred for support and therapy from professionals.




Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism spectrum condition is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and social interaction, and repetitive or restricted patterns of behaviours, interests, or activities, which can include hyper- and hyperreactivity to sensory input. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that it can manifest very differently in each person. For example, some are nonspeaking, while others have proficient spoken language. Because of this, there is wide variation in the support needs of people across the autism spectrum.


Abilities

People with autism are usually very passionate about whatever they do and rarely judge other people based on who is smarter. Autistic people usually have great memories and are less materialistic. Another huge autism benefit is that individuals with autism are not easily influenced by peer pressure. Autistic people struggle to lie and usually have a subject or talent they are able to really excel at.

Signs

Not responding to their name

Avoiding eye contact

Not smiling when you smile at them

Getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound

Repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body

Not talking as much as other children

Not doing as much pretend play

Repeating the same phrases


Next Steps

Talk to GP, Health visitor (for children under 5) any other health professional you or your child see, such as another doctor or therapist.

Special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) staff at your child's school

Ask them about referring you or your child for an autism assessment.

An assessment is done by autism specialists. It's the only way to find out if you or your child are autistic.

Keep accurate records of all your observations and concerns giving examples to take with you.

This is presently on average a 3 year waiting list so don’t sit on concerns and if a professional says they will keep an eye on it make sure you return to that service provider regularly and insist on a referral if necessary.




OCD

Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental and behavioural disorder in which an individual has intrusive thoughts (an obsession) and feels the need to perform certain routines (compulsions) repeatedly to relieve the distress caused by the obsession, to the extent where it impairs general function


Abilities

Lots of creativity

Phenomenal attention to detail

Harnessed correctly, a person with OCD will just dominate things

More sympathetic to others and what's going on in their lives


Signs

The signs and symptoms of OCD in children can be categorized as obsessions and compulsions. Common obsessions among children with OCD include:

Disturbing and unwanted thoughts or images of violent or disturbing things, like harming others

Extreme worry about bad things happening, doing something wrong, or lying

Feeling that things have to be “just right”

Preoccupation with order, symmetry, or exactness

Worries about getting sick, or getting others sick, or throwing up5

Compulsions are often (but not always) related to obsessions. For example, if the child fears germs, they may be compelled to wash their hands repeatedly. Common compulsions among children with OCD include:

Counting things over and over again

Elaborate rituals that must be performed exactly the same way each time (i.e. a bedtime ritual)

Excessive hand washing, showering, or brushing teeth

Excessively repeating sounds, words, or numbers to oneself

Ordering or rearranging objects in a particular or symmetrical way

Repeated checking (such as re-checking that the door is locked, oven is off, or homework is done right)

Repeatedly seeking reassurance from friends and family


Next steps

There are several ways to help children with OCD. Here are some tips that might help:

Educate yourself and your child on obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This can help you understand what your child is going through and how to best support them.

Give the OCD a name. This can help your child separate themselves from their OCD and make it easier to talk about.

Do not get overzealous and point out all of your child’s rituals. This can make them feel more anxious and self-conscious.

Don’t be part of their rituals. This can reinforce the idea that their rituals are necessary.

Keep an eye out for new rituals so you can work together as a team.

It’s important to seek professional treatment for your child’s OCD. In most cases, the recommended treatment for childhood-onset OCD combines individual or group cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) with medications that increase levels of serotonin, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)




ADHD & ADD


ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects people's behaviour. People with ADHD can seem restless, may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse.

Symptoms of ADHD tend to be noticed at an early age and may become more noticeable when a child's circumstances change, such as when they start school.

There are three categories of ADHD symptoms in addition to three types of the disorder. Symptoms are classified as:

inattention: getting distracted easily, having poor concentration and organizational skills

impulsivity: interrupting, taking risks

hyperactivity: never seeming to slow down, constantly talking and fidgeting, difficulty staying on task


ADD

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a term used for people who have excessive difficulties with concentration without the presence of other ADHD symptoms such as excessive impulsiveness.


Abilities

Problem solving

Ingenious Thinking

Driven and Hyperfocus

Imagination and creativity

Compassion

Generosity & Empathy

Sense of humour

A people person

Perseverance

Keen memory and sense of observation

Multitasking

Laser focus

Endless energy

Zeal for life

Acceptance

Willingness to take a risk

Spontaneity and constant surprises

Engaging conversational skills

Strong moral compass and a strong sense of fairness

Signs of ADHD in early years

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and affects 1 in 5 people in the UK. The typical age of diagnosis for ADHD is 7 years, however we can spot the signs earlier and this can be beneficial for providing the support needed in the Early Years.


Signs

There are 3 traits of ADHD including Hyperactivity, Inattention and Impulsivity. A child does not have to have all 3 traits to receive a diagnosis. It’s important to note that children in the early years, due to typical stages of child development, will demonstrate similar traits to that of ADHD however, If a child has ADHD the traits will be observed to a greater extent than their peers. You may find that the child demonstrates the traits more frequently and to a greater degree than other children their age.

What do the 3 traits looks like in young children?


Hyperactivity

Boundless energy

Sleep difficulties

Talkative/vocal

May struggle to sit still

Always “on the go”


Impulsivity

Behaving before thinking

Short play sequences

Reduced risk awareness

Often climbing


Inattention

Adults often repeat the child’s name

Forgetting skills learnt

Struggling to follow verbal instructions

Inconsistent with routine


Alongside the 3 traits mentioned above, some children may also experience sensory integration challenges. This is when the environment overwhelms the child’s sensory system, leading to them struggling to regulate their responses to the experience.


Next Steps

If your child is at Nursery, a childminder or in school, speak to them first. The role of the early year’s professional looking after your child, is to make regular observations in line with the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework/Development matters. These observations help them to monitor the child’s development right the way through their time at Nursery/Childminders/School.


If your child does not attend a setting, you may wish to speak to your health visitor. The Health Visiting team provide developmental checks whilst your child is 5 years and under. Their role is to observe the child’s development and to provide you with advice and guidance.


If you and the professionals are in agreement, a referral is likely to be made to a

paediatrician in your local area. The role of the Paediatrician is to make observations of the

child along with gathering evidence for potential diagnosis. This may take some time as it’s

important to see how the child progresses through their first seven years.




Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD) dyspraxia

Also known as dyspraxia, is a condition affecting physical co-ordination that causes a child to perform less well than expected in daily activities for his or her age, and appear to move clumsily.


Abilities

Determination, motivation and hard working

Empathy

Log Term Memory

Extremely bright, clever and creative individuals

Good sense of humour

Strong sense of empathy for others

Adept at finding new ways to learn

Exceptionally motivated and determined, especially when it comes to problem solving

High level of creativity, strategic thinking, leadership and problem-solving skills

Very good at visual tasks

Strong attention to detail


Signs

Slow to achieve motor milestones such as sitting (often after the age of 8

months), crawling (some never crawl), walking, hopping, jumping, walking up

and down stairs.

Poor at feeding and sleeping (may be continuing difficulty)

Unable to sit still

Knocks into objects

Awkward running gait Constantly tripping and falling over Knocks into objects/people

Knocks items over

Difficulty walking up and down stairs

Difficulty pedalling a tricycle

Lack of sense of danger e.g. jumping from a high wall or from top of a climbing frame

Difficulty with ball skills

Poor fine motor skills e.g. pencil skills, using scissors, dressing such as with

buttons, zips

Easily distressed & prone to tantrums

Lack of imaginative play

Poor ability to play with peers/social skills

Messy eating – poor ability to use cutlery

Poor concentration and is easily distracted

Delayed acquisition of language

Poor listening skills

Poor development of perceptual skills

Laterality is late to be established


Next Steps

Talk to a GP, health visitor or special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) if you think your child has developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD).

They may refer your child to another healthcare professional who can do an assessment.

This could be:

a paediatrician – a doctor specialising in the care of babies and children who will usually be based locally (community paediatrician)

a paediatric occupational therapist – a healthcare professional who can assess your child's functional abilities in daily activities, such as handling cutlery and getting dressed

a paediatric physiotherapist – a healthcare professional who can assess your child's movement (motor) skills

an educational psychologist – a professional who assists children who are having difficulty progressing with their education because of emotional, psychological or behavioural factors

Other doctors who may be involved in this process include a neurodevelopmental paediatrician or a paediatric neurologist.

These are paediatricians who also specialise in the development of the central nervous system, which includes the brain, nerves and spinal cord.

A neurodevelopmental paediatrician may work at a child development centre or local health clinics.


Occasionally, a neurologist is needed to help rule out other conditions that affect the brain and nervous system (neurological conditions), which may be causing your child's symptoms.


It's important to get a correct diagnosis so you can develop a better understanding of your child's problems and appropriate support can be offered.

Getting a diagnosis can also help reduce the stress experienced by both parents and children with DCD.




PDA

Pathological demand avoidance (PDA) is a profile that describes those whose main characteristic is to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent.


Abilities

Charming, determined, inquisitive

Intelligent, smart, imaginative, brave

Witty, funny creative, talented

Caring, unique, passionate, loving

Independent, bright, compassionate

Passionate, Sensitive, steadfast, loyal

Tenacious, charismatic

Justice orientated


Signs

Poor eating, which leads to poor growth

Sweating with crying or eating

Persistent fast breathing or breathlessness

Easy tiring

Rapid heart rate

No sense of responsibility and not concerned with what is ‘fitting to their age’.

Praise and punishment is ineffective.

No negotiation with other children.

Shock other children by their complete lack of boundaries.

Engage in a level of pretend play not commonly seen

Avoid direction and demand


Next Steps

In the Uk a child will be given a PDA profile rather than a diagnosis of PDA. If a child has PDA its more commonly recognised as an ASD profile (Autistic) see Next Steps for Autistic (ASD) above.


Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia is a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding numbers which can lead to a diverse range of difficulties with mathematics. It will be unexpected in relation to age, level of education and experience and occurs across all.


Abilities

Creativity and artistic talent

Strong strategic thinking

A love of words, often with excellent spelling and grammar

Intuitive thinking

Great organisational skills


Signs

In general, these signs will not be noticeable until school

Anxiety of math lessons or math teachers

Inability to memorize numbers and facts

Not making connections between numbers and quantities

Not understanding numerical symbols

Difficulty with basic arithmetic operations


Next Steps

An informal assessment of maths learning difficulties or maths screening can be carried out by someone with experience in maths learning and learning difficulties.

The purpose of an informal assessment of maths difficulties is to determine where the difficulties are so that a programme of support can be put in place to meet the needs of the learner and address the areas where they are struggling.

The purpose of a screening test is to see if there are traits of dyscalculia behaviour which need to be further investigated through a formal diagnostic assessment.

The BDA recommend that a formal diagnostic assessment should only be carried out by an assessor who is qualified at level 7 in the assessment of dyscalculia and/or has either an AMBDA dyscalculia or APC dyscalculia. A level 7 qualification in the assessment of dyslexia is not considered by the BDA to be sufficient.

SASC (The SpLD Assessment Standards Committee) guidelines on who can assess for Dyscalculia




ODD

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a condition that is commonly seen in up to 50% of children and young people with ADHD. The child is stubborn, hostile and often: loses their temper and argues with adults defies or refuses to comply with instructions.


Abilities

Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) can have positive traits such as passion for fairness and justice, strong feelings including feelings of love and empathy for others, perceptive and knowledgeable, ability to take in a lot of information at once and strong self-advocates. With the help of supportive parenting interventions, their behaviour can improve over time.


It’s important to note that children with ODD often respond to positive behaviour reinforcement. It’s helpful to offer them a chance to earn certain privileges, rather than taking those privileges away as punishment. For instance, give them the ability to earn screen time when they promptly do as they’re asked, instead of threatening to take away screens when they defy.


Signs

Sometimes it's difficult to recognize the difference between a strong-willed or emotional child and one with oppositional defiant disorder. It's common for children to show oppositional behaviour at certain stages of development.

Symptoms of ODD generally begin during preschool years. Sometimes ODD may develop later, but almost always before the early teen years. Oppositional and defiant behaviours are frequent and ongoing. They cause severe problems with relationships, social activities, school and work, for both the child and the family.

Emotional and behavioural symptoms of ODD generally last at least six months. They include angry and irritable mood, argumentative and defiant behaviour, and hurtful and revengeful behaviour.

Angry and irritable mood

Often and easily loses temper.

Is frequently touchy and easily annoyed by others.

Is often angry and resentful.

Argumentative and defiant behaviour

Often argues with adults or people in authority.

Often actively defies or refuses to follow adults' requests or rules.

Often annoys or upsets people on purpose.

Often blames others for their own mistakes or misbehaviour.

Hurtful and revengeful behaviour

Says mean and hateful things when upset.

Tries to hurt the feelings of others and seeks revenge, also called being vindictive.

Has shown vindictive behaviour at least twice in the past six months.

Severity


ODD can be mild, moderate or severe

Mild. Symptoms occur only in one setting, such as only at home, school, work or with peers.

Moderate. Some symptoms occur in at least two settings.

Severe. Some symptoms occur in three or more settings.

For some children, symptoms may first be seen only at home. But with time, problem behaviour also may happen in other settings, such as school, social activities and with friends.


Next Steps

Your child isn't likely to see their own behaviour as a problem. Instead, your child will probably complain about unreasonable demands or blame others for problems.

If you think your child may have ODD or other problem behaviour, or you're concerned about your ability to parent a challenging child, seek help from a child psychologist or a child psychiatrist with expertise in behaviour problems. Ask your child's paediatrician or other health care provider for a referral to a mental health provider.




Tourette’s

Tourette's syndrome. Tourette's syndrome is a condition that causes a person to make involuntary sounds and movements called tics. It usually starts during childhood, but the tics and other symptoms usually improve after several years and sometimes go away. They can become more obvious when someone is going through a stressful time through life.


Abilities

Verbal, Animated, Funny “life-of-the-party” type, Delightful, Talent as mimic, Natural acting ability, Uninhibited, just enough compulsiveness to get things done, High intelligence, Witty, sharp humour, Strength of character, Musical talent and improvisational skills, Quick reactions and reflexes, Competitive, Playful, Energetic, Enthusiastic, Joyful, Creative

Full of ideas, Photographic memory, Hardworking, Ambitious


Signs

There are many symptoms of Tourette syndrome. Here are some that are more common, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders.

Humming, Hopping, Kicking, Eye blinking, Grimacing, Head jerks, Arm flapping, Shoulder shrugs, Stomping, Grunting, constantly touching people or things, Barking, Throat clearing, Shouting out a word,

Kids who have TS can also display these symptoms:

Trouble focusing and concentrating

Behaviour problems: aggressiveness, irritability, or immature behaviour.

Attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Purposeful self-harm

Emotional upsets

Anxiety

Sleep problems: troubling falling asleep, talking during sleep, nightmares, restless while asleep


Next Steps

You should contact a GP if you or your child start having tics.

Many children have tics for several months before growing out of them, so a tic does not necessarily mean your child has Tourette's syndrome.


Auditory processing disorder

A neurodevelopmental disorder affecting the way the brain processes sounds. Individuals with APD usually have normal structure and function of the outer, middle, and inner ear (peripheral hearing). However, they cannot process the information they hear in the same way as others do, which leads to difficulties in recognizing and interpreting sounds.


Abilities

All of the above


Signs

APD often starts in childhood but some people develop it later.

If you or your child have APD, you may find it difficult to understand:

people speaking in noisy places

people with strong accents or fast talkers

similar sounding words

spoken instructions

APD is not a hearing problem. People with the condition usually have normal hearing.


Next Steps

Tests from a professional:

listen to speech with background noise

spot small changes in sounds

fill in missing parts of words

Other tests may include:

having electrodes on your head to measure how your brain reacts to sound

speech and language tests

memory, problem-solving and concentration tests

Testing for APD is not usually done on children under 7 years old.




Sensory integration (SI)

Also called sensory processing, refers to the processes in the brain that make sense of the information coming in from our senses, giving us information about what is happening outside and inside our body.


Abilities

People with SPD are usually very passionate about whatever they do and rarely judge other people based on who is smarter. SPD people usually have great memories and are less materialistic. Another huge SPD benefit is that individuals with SPD are not easily influenced by peer pressure. SPD people struggle to lie and usually have a subject or talent they are able to really excel at.


Signs

Lack of coordination or bumping into things

Slow development of fine and/or gross motor skills

Seeming lethargic or disinterested

Having difficulty knowing where they are in space

Strong emotional reactions to “normal” stimuli

Difficulty regulating their emotions or behaviour

Having “meltdowns” or temper tantrums

Difficulty communicating or engaging in play

Difficulty handling change

Poor attention or concentration, being easily distracted

Fussy eating or distress while feeding

Seeking constant movement eg spinning, jumping, running

Disliking/avoiding moving play equipment eg swings

Difficulty following instructions at home or school

Poor planning, sequencing or organisational skills.

Some of the daily activities that may be affected as a result of having sensory processing differences include:

Hair cutting, Teeth brushing, Moving around, Picky eating, Leisure Activities

Having a shower, Eating and Drinking, Going to school or college, Shopping


Next Steps

While many children have sensory issues sometimes, sensory processing disorder might be suspected when symptoms are affecting normal function or causing difficulties with everyday life.

There is still some debate among doctors about whether SPD is a real disorder. Some believe that particular children are simply highly sensitive, or that sensory issues are a symptom of other disorders like ASD. Other doctors believe you can have SPD without another disorder. SPD is not currently recognised as a medical diagnosis.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek help if your child seems to have a processing disorder. Occupational therapists are the health professionals qualified to assess and treat sensory issues.


An assessment will usually involve taking a history about your child’s development, such as how things went with pregnancy, birth and reaching developmental milestones like crawling, walking and talking. They’ll want to know when you first noticed your child’s issues and how they impact daily life. You might be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your child’s sensory symptoms.


The occupational therapist will also assess your child’s function. They might check how your child reacts to certain sensory stimuli or watch how your child plays and interacts with their surroundings. They may use assessments such as the Sensory Profile or the Sensory Processing Measure.


An occupational therapist working with a child that has sensory processing disorder

An occupational therapist can assess and treat sensory processing disorder

After the assessment, they’ll discuss their findings with you and suggest a management strategy.


You don’t need a doctor’s referral to see an occupational therapist, but your GP or child health nurse is a good place to start if you’re concerned about your child’s wellbeing. Having a referral may also enable you to access funding for therapy.

Signs that could indicate it’s time to seek professional help for your child include:

when behaviours are interrupting everyday life

if symptoms suddenly become worse, or

when their reactions to sensory inputs are too hard to manage at home or school.



bottom of page