Sensory Processing Challenges in Dyspraxia: Practical Solutions

Overview of Sensory Processing Challenges in Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects an individual’s ability to plan and coordinate their movements. In addition to motor difficulties, individuals with dyspraxia often experience challenges with sensory processing, which refers to how the brain receives, interprets, and responds to sensory information from the environment.

Sensory processing challenges commonly seen in individuals with dyspraxia can have a significant impact on their daily lives. These challenges can affect their ability to perform everyday tasks, engage in social interactions, and regulate their emotions.

Dyspraxia can manifest in various ways when it comes to sensory processing. Some individuals may be overly sensitive to certain sensory stimuli, such as loud noises or bright lights. On the other hand, others may have an underactive response and seek out intense sensory input.

To better understand the different types of sensory processing difficulties in dyspraxia, it is important to explore specific challenges individuals may face:

  1. Hypersensitivity: Some individuals with dyspraxia may be hypersensitive to sensory stimuli, meaning that they are more sensitive than usual to sounds, lights, textures, or smells. For example, they may find loud noises incredibly overwhelming or feel discomfort when touching certain fabrics.
  2. Hyposensitivity: Conversely, some individuals with dyspraxia may experience hyposensitivity, which means they have a reduced sensitivity to sensory input. These individuals may have difficulty registering subtle changes in their environment or may seek out intense sensory experiences to compensate for the reduced sensory input.
  3. Tactile defensiveness: Tactile defensiveness refers to an aversion or discomfort toward certain types of tactile input. Individuals with dyspraxia may have tactile defensiveness and experience discomfort when touched or when wearing certain types of clothing.
  4. Proprioceptive and vestibular challenges: Dyspraxia can also affect an individual’s understanding of their body’s position and movements (proprioception) and their sense of balance and spatial orientation (vestibular sense). These challenges may lead to difficulties with coordination, balance, and spatial awareness.

Understanding these different types of sensory processing difficulties in dyspraxia is crucial in developing effective strategies to support individuals with this condition. By identifying and addressing sensory processing challenges, individuals with dyspraxia can better navigate their daily lives and develop strategies to manage their unique needs.

Understanding the Different Types of Sensory Processing Difficulties in Dyspraxia


One type of sensory processing difficulty commonly seen in dyspraxia is hypersensitivity. Individuals with hypersensitivity often have an exaggerated response to certain sensory stimuli. For example, they may be extremely sensitive to loud noises, bright lights, or strong smells. These sensory experiences can be overwhelming and cause anxiety or discomfort for individuals with dyspraxia.


On the other hand, some individuals with dyspraxia may have an underactive response to sensory input, known as hyposensitivity. This means that they may seek out intense sensory input to feel stimulated or engaged. They may engage in sensory-seeking behaviors such as constantly touching objects, seeking opportunities to experience movement, or participating in activities that provide deep pressure input to their body.

Tactile Defensiveness

Tactile defensiveness is another common sensory processing difficulty seen in individuals with dyspraxia. It refers to an extreme aversion or overreaction to certain tactile sensations, such as being touched or wearing certain textures of clothing. Individuals with tactile defensiveness may avoid physical contact and exhibit discomfort or distress when exposed to certain tactile stimuli.

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Proprioceptive and Vestibular Challenges

Dyspraxia can also present with challenges in proprioception and vestibular processing. Proprioception refers to the body’s ability to sense and understand its position and movements. Individuals with dyspraxia may have difficulty coordinating their movements and may appear clumsy or uncoordinated. Vestibular processing relates to the body’s ability to sense and interpret movement and balance. Individuals with dyspraxia may have difficulty with activities such as balance, coordination, and maintaining a stable posture.

Understanding these different types of sensory processing difficulties in dyspraxia is crucial for implementing effective strategies to support individuals in managing their sensory challenges.

Recognizing the Impact of Sensory Processing Challenges on Daily Life

Sensory processing difficulties can have a significant impact on the daily life of individuals with dyspraxia. These challenges affect various domains of life, including self-care, academic performance, social participation, and emotional well-being. Understanding the impact of these difficulties is crucial in providing appropriate support and accommodations. Here are some ways sensory processing challenges can affect daily life:


Individuals with dyspraxia often struggle with sensory sensitivities that can make self-care activities challenging. For example:

  • Sensory aversions may make it difficult for them to tolerate certain textures of clothing, resulting in resistance to getting dressed.
  • Sensory overload from strong smells or loud noises may cause anxiety or discomfort, making it difficult to participate in personal hygiene routines.
  • Difficulties with fine motor skills can affect tasks such as brushing teeth, tying shoelaces, or buttoning buttons.

Academic Performance

In the educational setting, sensory processing challenges can significantly impact academic performance. This includes:

  • Difficulty focusing or attending to tasks due to distractions from sensory stimuli in the classroom, such as noises or visual clutter.
  • Sensory sensitivities may make it challenging to participate in certain activities, such as art or physical education, which involve exposure to specific sensory stimuli.
  • Challenges with motor coordination may affect handwriting, using tools like scissors, or participating in activities that require precise movements.

Social Participation

Sensory processing difficulties can also affect a person’s ability to participate in social interactions effectively. For instance:

  • Sensory sensitivities may lead to avoidance of crowded or noisy environments, making it harder to engage in group activities or attend social events.
  • Difficulty with motor coordination can impact participation in sports, playground activities, or games, which may affect social integration.
  • Sensory overload or aversive responses may lead to emotional dysregulation and difficulty with emotional expression, making it challenging to establish and maintain relationships.

Emotional Well-being

The impact of sensory processing challenges on emotional well-being cannot be overlooked. Some effects include:

  • Sensory overload or aversive sensory experiences can lead to heightened anxiety or stress levels.
  • Difficulties with self-regulation may result in emotional dysregulation, including meltdowns or emotional outbursts.
  • Constant exposure to sensory triggers without appropriate support and accommodations may contribute to feelings of frustration, low self-esteem, and social isolation.

To better understand the impact of sensory processing challenges, it is essential to recognize individual experiences and provide support tailored to their specific needs. By acknowledging and addressing these challenges, individuals with dyspraxia can lead more fulfilling and empowered lives.

Practical Strategies for Sensory Integration in Daily Routines

Individuals with dyspraxia often face challenges with sensory processing, which can significantly impact their daily lives. However, there are practical strategies that can be implemented in daily routines to support individuals in managing their sensory processing difficulties. Here are some evidence-based strategies:

Create a sensory-friendly environment

  • Minimize excessive sensory stimuli such as bright lights, loud noises, or cluttered spaces.
  • Provide a calm and organized physical environment to promote focus and reduce sensory overload.
  • Offer comfortable seating arrangements and quiet spaces for individuals to retreat to when needed.

Provide sensory breaks

  • Allow regular breaks throughout the day to support self-regulation and prevent sensory overload.
  • Incorporate sensory breaks that involve activities like deep pressure, stretching, or sensory play.
  • Encourage individuals to engage in calming activities such as deep breathing or listening to calming music.

Introduce sensory-based activities

  • Include activities that provide sensory input and promote body awareness, such as yoga, swimming, or bouncing on a therapy ball.
  • Engage individuals in activities that involve different textures, such as playing with sand, finger painting, or using textured materials.
  • Encourage the use of sensory tools such as fidget toys, weighted blankets, or stress balls to reduce anxiety and promote focus.
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Use visual supports to enhance understanding and organization

  • Provide visual schedules or calendars to help individuals plan and organize their daily activities.
  • Use visual cues or prompts to guide individuals through tasks or routines.
  • Label and organize items or workspaces with visual symbols or color-coded systems to improve comprehension and reduce confusion.

Implementing these strategies can greatly support individuals with dyspraxia in managing their sensory processing challenges. It is important to remember that each individual may have unique sensory needs, so it is essential to personalize these strategies based on their preferences and abilities. Working closely with occupational therapists and other professionals can also provide additional guidance and expertise in developing a comprehensive sensory integration plan.

Building Sensory-Aware Schools and Workplaces

Schools and workplaces have a crucial role to play in creating inclusive environments for individuals with dyspraxia. It is important to promote sensory awareness and provide appropriate accommodations to support these individuals in their learning and working experiences.

Sensory Breaks

One practical solution to support individuals with dyspraxia is to incorporate sensory breaks into their daily routines. Sensory breaks are short periods of time where individuals can engage in sensory-based activities to regulate their sensory systems. These breaks can help individuals with dyspraxia refocus and maintain attention in the classroom or workplace. Some examples of sensory breaks may include deep pressure activities, playing with fidget toys, or engaging in rhythmic movement exercises.

Access to Sensory Tools

Providing access to sensory tools can be beneficial for individuals with dyspraxia. Sensory tools, such as weighted blankets, noise-canceling headphones, or stress balls, can help regulate sensory input and promote a calmer environment. By offering a variety of sensory tools, schools and workplaces can empower individuals with dyspraxia to choose the tools that work best for them and enhance their focus and comfort.

Individualized Sensory Diets

Creating individualized sensory diets can be an effective way to address sensory processing challenges in individuals with dyspraxia. A sensory diet is a personalized plan that incorporates various sensory activities and strategies throughout the day to meet the specific sensory needs of an individual. By working closely with occupational therapists, educators can develop individualized sensory diets for students, while employers can collaborate with occupational therapists to create sensory-friendly work environments for employees with dyspraxia.

Supportive Classroom and Workplace Arrangements

Creating supportive classroom and workplace arrangements is essential for individuals with dyspraxia to thrive. This may include providing a designated quiet area for individuals to retreat to when feeling overwhelmed, ensuring classrooms and workspaces are organized and free from excessive visual or auditory distractions, and implementing clear and consistent routines and schedules. By structuring the physical environment to be sensory-friendly, schools and workplaces can minimize the impact of sensory processing difficulties on individuals with dyspraxia.

In conclusion, building sensory-aware schools and workplaces is vital for supporting individuals with dyspraxia. By implementing sensory breaks, providing access to sensory tools, developing individualized sensory diets, and establishing supportive classroom and workplace arrangements, we can create inclusive environments that foster optimal learning and working experiences for individuals with dyspraxia. Collaboration with occupational therapists and other professionals is key to effectively address sensory processing challenges and empower individuals with dyspraxia to advocate for their needs.

Collaborating with Occupational Therapists and Other Professionals

Collaboration with occupational therapists and other professionals is essential in effectively addressing sensory processing challenges in individuals with dyspraxia. By working together, these professionals can provide comprehensive support and interventions tailored to the specific needs of each individual.

Benefits of Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Collaboration among occupational therapists, educators, speech therapists, and other professionals ensures a holistic approach to addressing sensory processing difficulties in individuals with dyspraxia. By combining their expertise, these professionals can design and implement individualized strategies that target different aspects of sensory processing.

Furthermore, interdisciplinary collaboration allows professionals to share information, insights, and observations, facilitating a more accurate understanding of the individual’s challenges and progress. This collaborative approach ensures that interventions and support strategies are consistent across various settings, including the home, school, and workplace.

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The Role of Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists play a crucial role in supporting individuals with dyspraxia and sensory processing difficulties. They possess specialized knowledge and skills in sensory integration therapy, which focuses on helping individuals regulate and integrate sensory information effectively.

Occupational therapists use a variety of techniques and interventions to address sensory processing challenges in individuals with dyspraxia. These may include sensory-based activities, environmental modifications, and the use of sensory tools and equipment. The goal is to help individuals develop self-regulation skills and improve their overall ability to engage in daily activities.

Moreover, occupational therapists collaborate closely with individuals, families, and other professionals to develop and implement individualized sensory diets.

These diets consist of specific sensory experiences and activities tailored to address the individual’s unique sensory processing difficulties, such as tactile defensiveness or proprioceptive challenges.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Action

To illustrate the effectiveness of interdisciplinary collaboration, let’s consider a scenario involving a child with dyspraxia. In this case, the occupational therapist, educator, and speech therapist work together to support the child’s sensory processing challenges.

The occupational therapist conducts sensory assessments to identify the child’s specific sensory difficulties and develops a sensory integration plan. They collaborate with the educator to implement sensory breaks throughout the school day, allowing the child to engage in calming activities that promote self-regulation. The occupational therapist also provides the educator with strategies, such as visual supports or modified seating arrangements, to enhance the child’s ability to focus and participate in classroom activities.

Simultaneously, the speech therapist collaborates with the occupational therapist to address any communication difficulties related to sensory processing challenges. By understanding the child’s sensory needs, the speech therapist can incorporate sensory-based activities into speech therapy sessions to facilitate language development and communication skills.

External Resources

For further information on the role of occupational therapists in supporting individuals with dyspraxia and sensory processing difficulties, please visit:

– American Occupational Therapy Association: Dyspraxia and Occupational Therapy
– Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation: SPD Star

Collaboration among professionals is crucial for maximizing the potential of individuals with dyspraxia and ensuring that their sensory processing challenges are appropriately addressed and supported. By working together, occupational therapists, educators, speech therapists, and other professionals can empower individuals with dyspraxia to navigate their daily lives more successfully and achieve their full potential.

Empowering Individuals with Dyspraxia and Promoting Self-Advocacy

Individuals with dyspraxia face unique challenges in their daily lives, particularly when it comes to sensory processing. It is essential to empower these individuals to understand their sensory processing difficulties and advocate for their needs. By developing self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-advocacy skills, individuals with dyspraxia can better manage their sensory processing difficulties and seek appropriate support. Here are some practical tips and strategies:

  1. Understand your sensory processing challenges: Educate yourself about dyspraxia and the specific sensory processing difficulties you experience. Learn about the different types of sensory sensitivities and how they may affect you.
  2. Identify your triggers: Recognize the specific sensory stimuli that affect you the most. Keep a journal or diary to note down situations or environments that cause sensory overload or discomfort. This can help you develop strategies to avoid or manage these triggers.
  3. Communicate your needs: Clearly express your sensory processing challenges to your family, friends, teachers, and colleagues. Let them know what sensory stimuli may affect you and how they can support you. Open and honest communication is key to receiving the understanding and accommodation you need.
  4. Seek support from professionals: Collaborate with professionals who specialize in sensory processing difficulties, such as occupational therapists, educators, and speech therapists. They can provide valuable strategies and interventions tailored to your specific sensory needs.
  5. Develop self-regulation techniques: Explore different self-regulation techniques that can help you manage sensory overload and promote relaxation. Deep breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, and sensory calming strategies (e.g., using weighted blankets or fidget tools) can be helpful in alleviating sensory discomfort.
  6. Build a support network: Connect with other individuals who have dyspraxia or sensory processing difficulties. Online forums, support groups, and community organizations can provide a platform for sharing experiences, exchanging advice, and finding a sense of belonging.

Remember, self-advocacy is an ongoing process. As you gain a better understanding of your sensory processing challenges, continue to refine your self-advocacy skills and seek the support you need. It’s important to know that you have the right to access accommodations and participate fully in daily life activities. You are not alone, and there are resources available to support you.

For more information on dyspraxia and sensory processing difficulties, you can visit reputable sources such as the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the Dyspraxia Foundation (Dyspraxia Foundation).

Category: Developmental Disorders