Sensory processing disorder, or SPD, is a condition in which the brain is unable to handle various types of messages received through the senses. The disorder affects the five senses -- vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste -- as well as vestibular function and proprioception, which is a person’s awareness of his body in the environment. It is sometimes associated with autism and can lead to disturbing behaviors such as repetitive movements, attention deficits and behavioral problems. Some nutritional supplements might be helpful for children with this condition.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish and fish oil are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which might help a child with sensory processing disorder. Omega-3 fatty acids help support brain development and normal brain function. Additionally, these essential fatty acids are important to process visual signals, which could impact children who are overly sensitive to visual environmental stimuli. You can get omega-3 fatty acids through certain types of fish, and they are also available over the counter as supplements.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Some parents have had success with wheat-free and casein-free diets to help with symptoms of SPD associated with autism. Gluten -- the protein found in wheat, rye and barley -- and casein -- the protein found in milk and dairy products -- might have an impact on intestinal inflammation in a condition known as leaky gut syndrome. Eliminating foods with these types of proteins might reduce symptoms of autism and sensory processing disorder. However, children who do not eat these types of foods might need extra vitamin supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D, which might be missing from their diets.
Magnesium and B-6
Magnesium is a type of mineral important for transmitting nerve messages between the brain and the body. Low levels of magnesium might be associated with an increase in sensory processing problems if nerve transmissions occur too slowly. Additionally, magnesium might work to defend the nervous system from becoming too overstimulated, which might be an issue for people with sensory processing disorder. Magnesium needs vitamin B-6 for absorption, so combining the two nutrients will maximize the effectiveness of this type of supplement.
If your child has been diagnosed with SPD, talk with your doctor about the types of supplements that could help with this condition. Some parents have had success with giving their children supplements to reduce negative symptoms of SPD, but supplements are not necessarily a cure for this condition. Your doctor or a nutritional specialist can guide you toward the types of nutrients your child needs for his situation.
- Center of Development Pediatric Therapies; "Nutrition, Supplements and Biomedical Therapies"; Elizabeth Strickland
- Autism Web: GFCF (Gluten-Free, Casein-Free) Diet for Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Developmental Delay Resources; "How Sensory Integration and Nutrition Interact"; Kelly Dorfman
- Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation: FAQ