Age of Onset of SPD


My six year old son was just diagnosed with SPD. Looking back on his life from birth until now, I can now see some mild sensory issues that he had. I am really curious about why his symptoms suddenly became more noticeable, more extreme, and more problematic around his sixth birthday? We did move out of state and pretty much everything changed in his life. But now that he is settled in school, and has a bunch of friends, where does his hyperactivity come from?

His teacher thinks that first grade involves much more sitting and listening, and by the time school is over, he just has to let loose and get all of his energy out. But, in Kindergarten he got to move around a bit more, but not much, and he was there all day too, and we never saw this kind of hyperactivity.

My parents came to visit us for Thanksgiving, and they hadn't seen my son in almost a year, and they were just shocked at how hyper he is. We are just wondering why he was diagnosed now, and it wasn't more evident when he was younger? What is the average age of diagnosis or onset?

Thanks for your help!

The SPD Help Line Answers...


I understand this must be distressing to you, but your son has an excellent probability of improving with treatment, so let's discuss where he is now and what you can do about it.

Untreated SPD, even in a mild form will, in all likelihood, worsen as a child ages, and the challenges to his sensory systems increase. There is not an average age of onset, or diagnosis, but we frequently see that symptoms and behaviors may become more severe, and therefore more noticeable as a child enters the increased demands and expectations in the school setting. There are mitigating factors that can add to increased sensory responses, and these would include the family moving to a new location, with all the changes and new demands. You mentioned that "you moved out of state and pretty much everything changed in his life". BIG trigger for many of our SPD kids. And even without the move and all the changes, this increase in sensitivities and regulation (his hyperactivity) could have occurred regardless, because SPD will not and does not go away on it's own, it get worse over time. Mild does matter, and can very quickly escalate from mild to severe if our kids are overstressed, overwhelmed, overtired or have developmental or environmental changes in their lives.

It is not at all uncommon with our SPD kids, to see poor regulation of their internal state of alertness, which is an interoceptive (internal) sense. And there are several positive steps you can take immediately and in the long run, to help your child back to a more normal state of regulation.

If he is hanging on during school, but letting loose when he gets home, there are strategies to help him right now, you can read in Holding it Together - or not?!

I am happy to hear he has been diagnosed and hopefully will begin Sensory Integrative OT therapy, to help with all his issues including this regulation sense. He may need additional movement during his day to feel calmer and more organized. He may need a fidget at his seat, or a weighted lap pad, or even a ball chair to sit on, periodically. There are many strategies that can help him maintain his calm state during school, that are quiet, simple and unnoticeable, with the cooperation of his teacher. You may find some information in the following articles useful:

Using SI Theory To Help Solve Problems At School

Using SI Theory To Help Solve Problems At Home

Heavy Work Activities

Creating A Sensory Diet

One more will be very important to seek the advice of your OT for recommendations for activities to support therapy at home. You will want to incorporate specific activities in your every day life. This will not be as difficult as one might think. One of our favorite programs used to help with learning self regulation is:

How Does Your Engine Run?

If you need help finding the BEST OT and getting the most out of OT, please read Sensory Integrative OT; What You Need To Know Before Starting.

And I would like to suggest to ask your provider if s/he already uses this program, and if not, you might want to consider purchasing this and doing it at home, with the family. Really fun, wonderful way to teach your son how to help regulate himself, whenever and wherever he needs to.

Good Luck to you and your family, and please do let us know how he is doing!

Michelle Morris
Administrator, SPD International

Comments for Age of Onset of SPD

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Sep 22, 2014
My SPD improved greatly between 7 and 10 years old
by: Anonymous

I faced extraordinary hardship in 1st grade ( 6 years old). I could not understand what was going on around. I was getting out of my seat and interrupting the class. Beginning with 2 nd grade, the instructions were not as much verbal, as written, and that made me easier for me. I ended up doing very well academically, I was even popular in high school and college. I am also happily married. However, I am still struggling with anosmia episodes alternate with hypersensitivity to smell, I hate any physical activity, I need quiet time, I still cannot cope with background noise and I have anxiety. Otherwise, I am very functional, successful and I have a happy life and lots of friends.

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