Sensory Processing

Our nervous system starts to develop in utero and matures over the first 5 to 7 years of our lives. There are specific stages of development that each one of us has to go through in order to be full functioning adults that can live the life we want for ourselves. If our nervous system does not develop to the best capacity, we may struggle with developmental delays such as Dyspraxia. The literature discussed two different sources of registration of sensory information

Sensory Modulation & Sensory


Sensory modulation is the ability of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) to regulate the activity between the sympathetic (arousal) and parasympathetic (inhibition) systems. This can be likened to driving a car, when one has to balance the amount of pressure on the gas (arousal) and the brake (inhibition). When balance is achieved, we talk about achieving the “just right place” for optimal arousal and the “car” stays on the road in a safe and secure way.
In sensory modulation disorders this imbalance causes difficulties such as behaviors (meltdowns, frustration, etc) and frequently coincides with anxiety that can show itself in a variety of forms. Sufferers often are labeled as “having behaviors” and are also blamed for them, even though it is an actual developmental delay and neurobiological condition.

Sensory Discrimination is the ability of the Central Nervous System (CNS) to register information in an adequate speed and pace, as well as processing the sensory information from the entry point to the pre-frontal cortex for analysis. What this means is that we have to be able to innately and accurately grade sensory information to match the intended intensity of the stimulus (from auditory, visual, touch, movement, deep pressure, smell and taste) and instantaneously analyze and prioritize the importance of the incoming information.

There are different sensory systems that we evaluate. They include:

  • Vestibular system – Our movement against and with the pull of gravity in our bodies
  • Visual system – Not only close and near vision, but visual perception, ocular motor skills and visual-spatial ability
  • Auditory system – It is about what we hear, but also about how we listen in multisensory environments and adapt to our auditory spatial surroundings.
  • Proprioceptive system – When we move, our joints register information that “talk” to us about the movement being performed.
  • Tactile system – The way we touch, or experience being touched supports our body awareness, our exploration of objects, utensils and our ability to use them.
  • Olfactory system – Smell is the only system that bypasses the brainstem to go straight to the limbic system, so quite involved in emotional experiences.
  • Gustatory system – Taste is fundamental to our experiences around feeding and foods that we allow to pass our lips.
  • Interoceptive System – Our gut tells us about our autonomic features such as the fullness of our bladder, the experience of hunger as well as is connected to understanding the facial features of others.

Our Unique Evaluation

  • Comprehensive look at the impact of different sensory systems and client profiles
  • Concerned with finding the earliest possible origin of developmental delay in order to inhibit the waste of time and funding
  • Specific and not generalist approach
  • All ages, from infant to adult
  • From reflexes formed in utero to executive functioning
  • Explains social and emotional functioning
  • Explains relationship with academic performance
  • Connects sensory developmental delay to behavior patterns from mild to extreme meltdown behavior.

Behavior is a communication to us that a client is struggling to create an effective adaptive response to his / her environment and our evaluation chases the “why”.

If a client could, he or she would!

Our Unique Intervention Program:

We consider 3 phases of development that would be targeted successively according to the mild, moderate or severe continuum of needs within which each child’s specific individual differences will be respected and upheld. The frequency and duration of each phase will be determined by the individual differences of each client.

Phase 1: Foundation

  • Consider the basic skills of sensory motor development that enables us to be ready to learn.
  • Typically, these skills emerge in utero and at birth and develop into increased refinement over the first two years of life.
  • Getting the body and mind engaged in the learning process.
  • Sensory modulation, reflex integration, sensory registration of information, sensori-motor skill, emotional regulation
  • May consist of intensive periods of 10, 12 or 15 consecutive days each (except weekends), as well as combinations of weekly visits to our center
  • May also be weekly visits to our center accompanied with or without intensive home programming
  • Usually our most intense part of program, as once the foundation is formed, results in the next phases will already start showing.
  • Long distance programming available

Phase 2:

  • More concerned about the planned behavior of the sensory motor system and how this contributes to skill development and executive functioning.
  • Provide the necessary pieces that would enable someone to feel competent, to want to achieve, to want to join the world of learners efficiently and in a timely manner.
  • Organizing the adaptive response to the sensory stimuli.
  • Ocular-motor skills, oral-motor skills, visual-spatial skills, praxis (Dyspraxia), bilateral integration, coordination and timing, emotional regulation
  • May consist of intensive periods of 10 or 12 consecutive days each (except weekends), as well as combinations of weekly visits to our center
  • May also be weekly visits to our center accompanied with or without intensive home programming
  • Long distance programming available

Phase 3:

  • Phase 1 and 2 development is naturally targeted first, due to needing to achieve major building blocks in foundation already noted
  • Consider laterality and interhemispheric organization
  • Impact on executive functions
  • Consider functional performance in reading, math and written expression
  • Emotional regulation and social skills
  • May consist of intensive periods of 10 or 15 consecutive days each (except weekends), as well as combinations of weekly visits to our center
  • May also be weekly visits to our center accompanied with or without intensive home programming
  • Long distance programming available

Social-Emotional Functioning:

  • Considered throughout all three phases
  • Impact of sensory motor developmental delay on behavioral function
  • Overlap between sensory development and anxiety
  • Development of a sense of self, autonomy and self-esteem
  • Social skills
  • Attachment and sensory profile overlap
  • Consider impact of trauma, utilizing trauma informed care
  • Sibling and family relationships

If you are looking for a personalized approach for treating Sensory Processing Disorder, Schedule A Free Phone Consultation today!


Bringing our son to ATA has been hands down one of the absolute best decisions we’ve made for our son. To think of where he is now compared to where he was before we came is honestly unbelievable.

The aggression, the anxiety, the sensory meltdowns, running to the car to escape noisy places, the lack of sleep, the list goes on and on and on. My husband and I were absolutely exhausted. After trying to get him the help that he needed in NC, we decided to take him up to ATA in PA.

 By Day 4 of his first intensive, we started seeing dramatic changes, and ever since, it’s been a game changer for not only him, but for our whole family. A few weeks after we got back from our first intensive, he told us, “You know those headphones I wear in Pennsylvania? They make me stronger.” He said that as a 3.5 year old because he intuitively knew that Tomatis was helping him.

One of the greatest gifts I feel like we’ve given our son by coming to ATA is feeling comfortable in his own skin. He is now a very self-confident, and even at times, empathetic little boy. Furthermore, for my husband and I, it has been a tremendous relief, as parents, to come to people who not only really understand our son, but also have taken us by the hands and given us a roadmap on how to help him thrive.

We cannot thank Maude, Angela, and everyone else at ATA enough!

Hope you all are well!

Brittany (May 8, 2020)

Does Your Child Have Sensory Processing Disorder?

Learn the signs, better understand Sensory Processing Disorder, manage a misunderstood child, and explore treatment options.