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Sensory processing

Supporting children and young people with sensory processing differences

Why don’t we use the term: Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder is not included in the Diagnostic Manual as a standalone disorder. As a diagnosis cannot be given, we therefore cannot assess for it. Our position is supported by the RCOT – the governing body for Occupational Therapists in the UK.

The sensory difficulties that some children and young people experience are often part of a wider picture of neurodiversity and are particularly associated with conditions such as Autism or ADHD. .

Support when there are Sensory Processing Differences

There are several approaches for managing sensory processing differences. In Somerset we believe that sensory processing differences are best addressed through:

  • Supporting the person and those around them to understand their unique sensory preferences and profile
  • Support with adapting the task or the environment around the young person to allow them to take part in a meaningful way despite their sensory processing difference

We believe that sensory processing differences in an individual are not a problem that needs to be fixed. Instead, we believe that by adapting the task or the environment we can support people with a range of sensory processing patterns to take part in the activities that matter to them.

There are some approaches to sensory processing that aim to change how a young person’s brain notices and processes sensory information. These approaches use very intensive and direct work with the young person. The most common of these is called Ayres Sensory Integration or Sensory Integration Therapy.

There is currently very little evidence to support these approaches and they remain in an area which is heavily debated and poorly evidenced. Therefore, in line with the strongest evidence base currently available, and guidance from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, we do not routinely provide Sensory Integration Therapy in Somerset. We will review this position statement on at least an annual basis and as new evidence emerges.


To be read alongside the Somerset Sensory Processing Handbook which is in the process of being updated.

Last reviewed: January 31, 2024 by Gemma

Next review due: July 31, 2024

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