Introduction Sensory processing function (SPD) is the child’s ability to register, modulate and discriminate between different sensory information arising from the body (e.g. tactile and vestibular sense) and those received from the environment (vision, auditory and gustatory senses). Sensory processing disorders are impairments in responding to sensory stimuli such as impairments in detection, modulation, or interpretation of stimuli which can impact upon functional performance in activities of daily living.
Aim To evaluate how reliable paediatricians were at diagnosing/identifying SPD in children and the resources available for assessment and treatment of SPD.
Methods A questionnaire was sent to both hospital and community based paediatricians which was designed to assess their awareness, practice and local referral pathway.
Results For our survey, we received a total of 39 responses from paediatricians. 18% of responses were from community Paediatricians and 82% were Hospital doctors. 32% were Consultants, 59% were trainees and 9% were specialty doctors. Only 50% of Paediatricians had come across/made a diagnosis of SPD. 23% include SPD related symptoms as a routine in history taking for children with behavioural problems/learning difficulties whereas 77% did not. 85% elicited auditory symptoms, 67% asked for visual symptoms, 57% included questions related to body awareness, 52% asked for taste related and tactile SPD symptoms and 42% elicited movement related question.
For management strategies 71% would refer to occupational therapy, 33% suggested calming strategies, 52% would offer names of support groups or leaflets and 20% would offer a combination of all three.
87% of the responders felt that there was underawareness of SPD amongst paediatricians. The responders were from seventeen different organisations and only three had local policies or guidelines for assessing SPD.
Conclusion The possible inhibiting factors in making a diagnosis of sensory perception disorder are, a) Under awareness of the problem b) Overlap of symptoms with other developmental disorders like ADHD and Autism c) Absence of any universally accepted framework for diagnosis d) Poor resources for referral services.
We also identified a gap in service provision at most hospitals due to limited resources allocated for the occupational therapy team.