Growing up with sensory processing disorder

When Joanne Sciortino brought her 8-month-old daughter Victoria home from a Russian orphanage, she knew something wasn’t quite right.

“From immediately being on the train and watching her rock herself in such a violent way— you knew she was trying to calm her body,” Joanne told

At 15 months old, Victoria Sciortino underwent early interventional testing and was clinically diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, or SPD.

SPD is a neurological condition that causes the brain to process stimuli differently, and the condition has three subtypes. First, there’s sensory modulation disorder, wherein people have certain sensory cravings, or may be oversensitive or under-sensitive to stimuli such as hearing and touch. Other individuals may suffer from sensory discrimination disorder, which causes people to have difficulty distinguishing between sensory messages, like not being able to tell if a food is too sweet or salty, or understanding the tone of a funny joke. Last, there’s sensory-based motor disorder, which is marked by having problems moving or planning a sequence of movements like balancing and riding a bike.

“The brains and bodies of people with sensory challenges are wired differently,” Lindsey Biel, a New York City based occupational therapist and author of “Sensory Processing Challenges; Effective Clinical Work with Kids & Teens,” told “Certain sensory signals might come in too loud or too softly. If the information is not coming in a reliable, accurate way— or feels uncomfortable or painful in that person’s body— it’s going to interfere with function, and that’s when we start to talk about disorder.”

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