Purpose: Children who exhibit the confusing symptom patterns associated with sensory processing deficits are often seen first by primary care providers, including family and pediatric nurse practitioners (NPs). The purpose of this article is to alert NPs to the state of the science for these disorders and to the roles NPs could play in filling the knowledge gaps in assessment, treatment, education, and research.
Data sources: Literature searches using PubMed and MedLine databases and clinical practice observations.
Conclusions: Sensory integration disorders have only begun to be defined during the past 35 years. They are not currently included in the DSM IV standard terminology, and are not yet substantively incorporated into most health disciplines’ curricula or practice, including those of the NP.
Implications for practice: NPs are in a unique position to test hypothesized terminology for Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) by contributing precise clinical descriptions of children who match as well as deviate from the criteria for three proposed diagnostic groups: Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD), Sensory Discrimination Disorder (SDD), and Sensory-Based Motor Disorder (SBMD). Beyond the SPD diagnostic debate, for children with sensory deficit patterns the NP role can incorporate participating in interdisciplinary treatment plans, refining differential diagnoses, providing frontline referral and support for affected children and their families, and making both secondary prevention and critical causal research possible through validation of consistently accepted diagnostic criteria.