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Who Does SPD Affect?

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We’ve talked a lot on this page about what sensory processing disorder (SPD) is (if you want to learn more about that click here). But who does SPD affect?

You may have seen in Kara’s recent blog, that at this time there is no known ‘cause’ of SPD, but there are some populations that do have a higher prevalence of SPD. 

How many people are affected by SPD?

SPD affects at least 1 in 20 people (5-16%) of the general population. There are certain populations that have a higher prevalence of SPD. 

The prevalence of SPD in people with:

The prevalence of SPD associated with prematurity is around 39-52%.

As you can see the prevalence of SPD among those with other developmental diagnoses is much higher than in the general population. 

Remember SPD can also be a diagnosis of its own, this means it does not have to be associated with another diagnosis. 

Diagnosis associated with SPD

As you saw above Autism, ADHD and prematurity have a higher rate of SPD. Here are a few other diagnoses and situations that may have a higher rate as well:

  • Fragile X Syndrome
  • Those who are gifted
  • Adoption
  • Exposure to heavy metals
  • Lack of exposure
  • Traumatic birth history
  • Hereditary


Most commonly SPD is diagnosed in the toddler and early school-age years. But SPD can affect people of all ages. 

Infants, toddlers, and school-age children can all struggle to process sensory information. They may just display it differently.

For example, an infant may demonstrate tactile defensiveness by becoming upset or withdrawing when placed on the grass. 

A toddler may struggle with activities such as dressing or bathing. 

A school-age child might have difficulties with transitions or changes in routines. 

SPD in adults?

Even though SPD is more commonly seen in children, adults are affected by SPD as well.

As adults many of us have developed strategies, unknowingly, to help with our sensory difficulties. You might notice that you feel more settled or focused after a walk or a gym session. Know that a warm bath helps to settle you down at night. Or that certain foods help to keep your attention when focusing on a task.

We all process sensory input daily, and we’ve all experienced overstimulation. Ever been at the end of your rope and just felt the need to disappear and have some alone time? Most likely you were overstimulated by the situation or accumulation of events and recognized that you needed a minute to get back into a better state. 

SPD can affect us all

As you can see SPD affects anyone from infants to school-age children and adults. We all process sensory input in our days and thus can struggle with it at certain times.

There are some diagnoses that show a higher prevalence of SPD. 

Learning about SPD and seeking out help from a local occupational therapist is a great place to start learning about and helping your child or yourself improve sensory processing. 

Check out our other blogs:

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