March 12, 2019

Part 3: SPD Classifications

Category 3, Sensory-Based Motor Disorder (SBMD)

Welcome to Part 3 in our 4 part series covering the categories of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). At this point in the series you are empowering yourself to understand and empathize with the challenges that face your loved one living with SPD. When you understand your loved one’s experience of the world, you can truly connect. Well done!  If you want to start from the beginning start here, and then continue to Part 1 (SMD) and Part 2 (SDD) of the series.

Today we are discussing the category of SPD referred to as Sensory-Based Motor Disorder (SBMD). Someone living with SBMD may have poor posture when standing or moving, poorly coordinated movements (dyspraxia), or a combination of both. Two subcategories of SMD are listed below with examples of displayed behaviors, signs, and symptoms (1, 2).

Sensory-Based Motor Disorder (SBMD):

  1. Postural Disorder (PD):  Being able to perform a task that requires movement or standing still with good posture starts with good processing of sensory information.  If this information is accurately processed, then the body will create good stabilizing posture to react to the world. For example, if you are standing still and you see someone walking towards you, you may lean slightly to avoid them bumping you if they get too close as they walk by.  Without good processing of sensory information allowing for good stabilizing posture, the next step of moving (leaning) out of the way simply cannot happen accurately. People living with PD may have abnormally tight or loose muscle tone.  They may slouch with difficulty sitting upright in a chair or frequently loses balance standing or walking.  They may seemingly trip “for no reason”. Coordinating movements may be a challenge as well with throwing or catching a ball.  They may struggle with clapping hands or snapping fingers. Poor movement of the eyes may be noted as well if proper testing is performed. This may lead to reading difficulties and vision challenges even if they pass a vision exam with an optometrist. Using two hands together in a coordinated fashion like catching a football, tying shoes, or buttoning a shirt can be a challenge. You may also observe a possible lack of definitive handedness (left or right). Your child may draw with one hand, and feed themselves or throw with another. They may be physically active, but display poor body control or they may appear sedentary, not wanting to engage in physical activity (1, 2).
  2. Dyspraxia: This sub-category means that the brain of an individual with SPD struggles to plan and perform movements. Properly processed sensory information is required to know where you body is in space.  If your child’s brain doesn’t have a good idea where their body is in space, then their brain may not be able to conceptualize, plan out, or perform the multiple steps of a movement or series of movements. Different categories of movements can be affected with dyspraxia.  Gross motor (large muscle groups), fine motor (small muscle groups) skills can be affected. When it comes to fine motor movements the fingers and hands as well as eyes and mouth can have movement planning and execution problems.  People living with dyspraxia may try to mask their movement challenges with joking and “fooling around”, preferring pretend games to actually doing tasks, because they’re reluctant to participate in new movement based activities.  If you struggle to clap to the beat, how much would you want to participate in a music class requiring you to clap along and dance to music. Your child may also be less active, preferring sedentary activities like reading, playing board or video games, or watching television.  Further signs and symptoms of dyspraxia are broken down into these categories below (1, 2).
  • Gross Motor Signs & Symptoms: People living with dyspraxia may have trouble judging where their body is in space and judging their distance from objects. They may appear clumsy and often bump into objects or over/under reach for objects. The ability to move in more complex ways like skipping or jumping rope may be a big struggle for them. Difficulty with throwing and sports may be present as well (1, 2).
  • Fine Motor Signs & Symptoms: Your child may be prone to breaking toys or objects. They may struggle with drawing, writing, buttoning clothes, eating with utensils, tying shoes, snapping fingers, etc (1, 2).
    • Eye Movement Signs & Symptoms: They may have issues with the movement of their eyes, leading to reading and writing problems. They may also have trouble moving their eyes together and apart to look at near and far objects.  Trouble moving the eyes together (convergence) can lead to reading challenges (1, 2).
    • Mouth Movement Signs & Symptoms: Speech articulation by the age of three may still be an issue making them hard to understand. Other activities coordinating movements of their mouth may be difficult as well like whistling, blowing bubbles, or even chewing (1, 2).

We’re here to empower you with information and strategies to improve brain function in your loved one living with SPD.  If your child displays some of these motor challenges, the road to progress begins with discovering which areas of their brain aren’t processing sensations properly.  Take the first step and reach out to schedule your complimentary consultation with one of our doctors trained in brain rehabilitation.


  1. Kranowitz CS, The Out-Of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder. 2nd ed. New York: Penguin Group; 2005.
  2. Miller LJ, Anzalone ME, Lane SJ, Cermak SA, Osten ET. Concept evolution in sensory integration: a proposed nosology for diagnosis. Am J Occup Ther. 2007 Mar-Apr;61(2):135-40.

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