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sensory processing disorder (spd)

Parts of this were taken with permission from Essential Oils Overview and Reference Guide, published by: The Family Tree, 2008


see also ADHD, Autism

Those suffering from Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) are not able to properly process the information coming from eyes, ears, touch, etc. and may respond in unusual ways. SPD, formerly referred to as Sensory Integration Disorder, is not yet recognized by some medical professional organizations but it is diagnosed by many professionals. Usually it can be noticed in infants and is increasingly recognizeable as it affects young children. They can overreact to certain sensory experiences or in other cases can under react. Examples of this are:

  May overreact to light touch from another person or even an article of clothing.

  Unusual reactions to texture of foods

  Intense sensitivity to some odors

  Unusual sensitivity to light

  Require unusual activity and sensory stimulus before falling to sleep

  Interpret sensory information incorrectly appearing to be uncoordinated

  Seeming to ignore others or not enter into interaction

  Avoidance of activity that may be confusing or uncomfortable

  Uncontrollable responses (tantrums) to what otherwise might be a minor event

  Unusual fears or distress

There is not yet an understanding of the reason for this disorder.

[search helps: SID]

Oils, blends & products recommended:

Oils & Blends:  Grounding Blend, citrlus oils, Joyful Blend (Elevating Blend), Lime, Wild Orange

Essential oils based products:

Also consider: In Tune, Peaceful Child*

Note: to understand the E and C superscript go to Home and scroll to New Helps.

Suggested protocols:

Note - Since many with this type of disorder are highly sensitive to odors and sometime touch do not force the application of oils if it is a negative experience as this will build a experiential resentment towards their use in the future. Many times it is successful letting them make their own selection from a few choices of oils.

Topical application of 1 or 2 drops to the back of the neck, suboccipital triangle (see ADHD) or the bottoms of the feet.


*The following blend was submitted by a mother that had great success with 3 children. (Editor's note: now also available pre-made, search for Peaceful Child Blend online):

Peaceful Child Blend
  18 drops Vetiver
  10 drops Ylang Ylang
  7 drops Frankincense
  5 drops Clary Sage
  3 drops Marjoram
  12 drops Fractionated coconut oil

Blend in a roll on bottle and apply to bottoms of feet and on the brain/ spinal reflex points of the feet right after showering in the morning.

Experiences and Testimonials of others

Elizabeth - Has anyone had any positive changes using essential oils with sensory integration disorder (or sensory processing disorder)?  It is a neurological dysfunction. Any help would be appreciated!

Nicole – Grounding Blend on the feet morning and night.

Naomi - My sons are 5 and 6 years old - they are full biological brothers, and we adopted them through foster-adoption. We started with them as foster children when they were 12 months old and newborn. They both have confirmed prenatal cocaine exposure, and it's safe to assume that in addition to that they were exposed to who-knows-what and didn't get much in the way of prenatal nutrition.

They are smart, bright, loving children who have a hard time getting through the day. They need lots of help regulating emotions, anxiety, managing sleep and eating. They are very sensitive to bright light, textures on their skin, noises, and smells (these symptoms are all indicative of Sensory Processing Disorder, SPD). I'm fairly new to oils and have been trying some things with them since the spring. I am generally encouraged and there's lots I would like to sort out and report to this group -- perhaps when school starts for us in a few more weeks I’ll have the time to do that. 

In the meantime, I want to share this quick story from a couple of months ago. It was bedtime and my 5yo was bouncing off the walls, more than he normally does. This is not a metaphor -- at bedtime he literally starts bouncing off the walls. He tries to stand on his head and puts his feat up on the wall, does flips, etc. This is even if he's been fairly calm up just before bedtime. (His mind/body requires a lot of gross motor sensory input to calm down, and as an infant/toddler we would have to "bounce" him pretty vigorously for 30 minutes before he could fall asleep.) I had recently got Grounding Blend and had started putting it on their feet at night, so it was handy. They object strongly to any kind of lotion on their skin and to most strong smells. 

But, I just got bold and put some on my finger and reached up and dabbed some on the back of his neck and on his feet, trying to be subtle. We have a lot of "contact" during his "bouncy" bedtime I wasn't sure if he even noticed I did it. But then... one to two minutes later he just looks me in the eye and says "thanks for that thing you put on my neck, Mom. -- I'm feeling better now ... I'm back!" I asked if he wanted more, and he wanted to do it himself. (Remember, they hate it when I put anything on their skin and insist they would rather be itchy than use lotion.) I gave him a q-tip, he dipped it in, and put in on the back of his neck, his shoulders, and on the inside of his elbows. Then his brother wanted some, and they were putting it on each other! And then my 5yo says, "it's going all through my blood now, Mom!" as though he could feel it making a difference as it went through his body! I would never have believed it if I didn't see it myself!!

To be honest, we've got so many factors/possible triggers going on each day that it's often hard to be conclusive about when it's an oil making the difference, or something else. I'm still trying to nail down what's very best for them. But it's moments like these that have helped me understand the amazing potential of (...) essential oils. Tomorrow I'm sending some samples (balance, frankincense, lavender) across the country to an old friend whose daughter is suffering from a brutal condition that is kind of an autism/epilepsy all rolled together. I'm so hopeful about the difference that can make for their little girl and their whole family!

Detoxqueen - Great experience! Thanks for sharing.  I would definitely consider testing out cilantro to detox heavy metals. All foster children are vaccinated (sometimes with each move!) and will have that added burden of toxicity as well as whatever toxins the cocaine may have been cut with.  Be sure to have only full spectrum lighting in the home and school even if you have to pay for the school to do it for their classrooms if you can't home school. This is crucial. Read this book please: “Light - Medicine of the Future” to see why.  I cannot over-emphasize this enough.  It will make a huge difference for the SPD as well as making the teacher's life a lot easier!

Chris - Naomi, that's a fantastic testimony. My daughter was exactly the same--could be as mellow as a Sunday morning just before bed, but mention brushing her teeth, and holy tornado she's gone, literally bouncing off the walls, handstands on her bed, kicking the wall until that fated day when we put Grounding Blend on her late in the day. She had been having a completely raucous time of ripping off couch cushions, knocking over dining room chairs, pulling the sheets and blankets off her bed, just general melee.

At this point, my wife was the only "believer" in the oils. I called BS on them, and I wasn't backing down. That is, until I saw the oils in action. My wife put a single drop of Grounding Blend on the back of her neck, and 3 minutes later, she was back to Sunday morning calm. I thought, "Okay ... there's no way that's coincidental." But being the skeptic that I was, I waited for her to start acting up again. I had to wait an entire 24 hours, at which point we re-applied Grounding Blend. Same result. I told my wife that she had carte blanche to order whatever she felt was necessary or even just wanted.

At this point, in our oils arsenal, we only lack Melissa, and I plan on remedying that by the end of the month. I will testify to my dying breath the power of these things. I have made the complete 180. As my wife teaches classes, or we attend classes that others are teaching, we encounter the skeptics. I always tell them the same thing: "Be skeptical! Prove these oils with your own test." And invariably, we run into the previous skeptic who has some miraculous story to share. Why?  Because these oils work exactly as they're purported to work. There's no going back for us. We're completely doctor-free. Common cold? Protective Blend it! Some flu bug managed to escape the Protective Blend? Oregano to the rescue! Unrelenting cough? Eucalyptus! Can't sleep? Lavender! Thanks again for you story, Naomi. It warms us all to the core.


PS - Any experience out there using the oils for sensory processing disorder? Thank you!

Mindy - I haven't found the right oil for my daughter, I highly recommend a Zyto scan and I did find some relief with high doses of high quality fish oil, like 1000mg a day

Kathy - (...) xEO Omega complex is 1000 mg and it's the highest quality! I would try the Massage Blend therapy with Frankincense.

Rochelle - Hi Janine, when my daughter was struggling SPD was one of the possibilities.  Her's turned out to be ADD.  But, something you could try is the Peaceful Child blend. “The Peaceful Child Blend works wonders! The oils in this blend are known to help with Hyperactivity, ADD/ADHD, Emotional trauma, Fear, Stress, Anxiety, Behavioral and Cognitive disorders and neurological disorders. They are calming, soothing and stabilizing to the central nervous system. This blend creates a deep, languid calm; has sedative properties; frees the nerves from excessive tension, which allows a person to spiritually center themselves. It nourishes and protects the brain and nervous system. It restores feelings of hope and mental strength and promotes a positive outlook on life. It eases the pain behind anger and quiets the mind chatter."

Gin - It is expensive to make. I mix it up, split it into roller balls and others from my group buy the extras. (This isn't my recipe, it was posted previously on the list). Okay, here is the blend recipe... (Editor's note: also available pre-made, search for Peaceful Child Blend online)

85 d Vetiver (1/3 bottle)

30 d Ylang Ylang

20 d Frankincense

15-17 d Clary Sage

10 d Marjoram

35 d FC0 (optional)

Ramona - I have a 7 year old son who has SPD and is greatly affected in just about every sensory system.  While the oils do help him, especially at certain times, I have found other things that help as well.  First of all, because he is very sensitive to smells, there are only a few oils he will even tolerate.  And most of those he will only let me put on his feet.  However, he absolutely adores citrus-particularly Joyful Blend (Elevating Blend).  I have seen this oil literally take him from total meltdown mode to calm within a minute.  This oil, I can put on his back, his neck, etc. and he loves it.  He can't have lavender at all, as it will give him nightmares, so I think that as with all of us, it is important that you either muscle test what he needs or do some trial and error and watch for reactions.

Beyond the oils, we have a sensory diet set up for him.  I have researched the different systems and using his evaluation, we have put different activities, massage, deep pressure activities, etc. into place throughout the day.  He also attends a school where they focus a lot on this.  It has been amazing for him.  My son is mostly sensory seeking, so it was apparent at first that he even had this disorder, but now that we know, we have seen huge improvements in his behavior.


Riki - Has anyone already dealt with the issue of schools not allowing the oils?  It would be nice if you could share your experience for some of us who are just beginning to get flack from the schools. What steps did you take?  Were you successful? Thanks for any help.

Valerie - We live in Utah and we have an IPC that has had good success w/putting a diffuser in an elementary classroom.  First of all, they had a teacher that was in favor of helping the student in this way.  Then the pediatrician got on board because he could see the difference it was making for the young girl at home and was willing to write a letter so the diffuser would become part of the IEP (Individual Education Plan). She and her sister even have their own EO roller bottles that they bring to school and I think they are allowed to keep w/them.  

HA - Thanks Riki for speaking up.  It's not to be true here in Saratoga Springs by any means.  I am taking my kids elementary school complaint to the ACLU.  I believe I have a discrimination case on my hands and my rights be questioned.  I won't stand for it any longer.  I will fight for my children tooth and nail.  Especially when they are telling me nature's medicine is not allowed in the school anymore.  But it’s ok to have the synthetic garbage that is toxic to the children's health.  Whatever!  There I'm done ranting.

Laura - So far we have not run into any problems.  I have mixed a couple drops of eo in mango butter and a little bit of solid coconut oil in tiny jars so my girls can always have their own "health balm" to take with them and I don't have to worry about them spilling them, or getting too much or in their eyes as easily, etc.  I have made one for peppermint, lavender, and melaleuca (works great on eczema flare ups!). I also send a tiny sample bottle of the oil needed mixed with FCO if they need a certain oil, and they keep it in their backpack or desk.  If the teacher asks they just tell them it is essential oils and they have had no problems. Good luck.  Keep speaking up for your children.  As long as they are not sharing the oils with other kids I see no reason they cannot have them in school as part of their health.

Oil Girl - What oils are you using in the classroom?

Valerie - They've used wild orange a lot.  The report from Lillian,the family’s mom is below:

We diffuse Wild Orange with the Ace diffuser in class, I have also recently given the teacher a Lime bottle so she alternates the oils. We also have it in roller bottles Vetiver and Wild Orange in case the teacher notices she is hyper and Calming Blend in case she is anxious. Because she is a 1st ...r and in the past other little kids have taken her roller bottles or she has given them away because the kids like the smell, I decided that the oils should be kept by the teacher or the office. The oils were written into her 504 Plan so we have had no problems in utilizing them for medicinal purposes since our physician thought it necessary for her care. My daughter suffers from a Central Auditory Processing Disorder, Anxiety, ADHD, and Depression. All which have been improved. In September she was bottom of the class in her last round of school district tests she was above reading level and above Math level.


Mandi - Does anyone have an oil blend or advice for sensory processing disorder?

Amelia - This is similar to autism, right? If so I have a gal whose son has this...she uses the Peaceful Child blend recipe 1 of the main oils in this is Vetiver so you may want to try it but mix some Geranium w/it b/c geranium tends to help people w/sensory issues more receptive to smells. Apply the vetiver to bottoms of feet layer w/geranium and even lavender if needed.


GM - My question is, does anyone have experience using oils with people who don't like being touched? I am in contact with a mother of a nine year old boy who has some behavior issues but pulls away when anyone tries to just put a hand on his shoulder. He has been diagnosed with mild ADHD. Hoping ATT might help him.

Mellanie - I am new to the oils, so I can't help much with that part.  So far as not wanting to be touched though, it sounds like the boy has some sensory processing.  For people with SPD, their brain doesn't process sensation (touch, movement, heat, cold, sound, etc.) the same way as other people process these sensations.  Many children diagnosed with ADHD actually have sensory processing disorder.  His issues could be that he needs a really firm touch in order to process it, or it could be that he needs to be able to anticipate the touch before it happens.  Always let him know you are about to touch him and exactly where before you do it. 

Brenda - I am a massage therapist and have had several youths who have been diagnosed with austism.  Massage therapy can be useful in helping them become accustomed to touch.  You must always respect their personal space and ask their permission before touching them.  Start slowly and work gently; use a soothing voice and if at any time they resist you must respect their request to stop. Ask permission again before going further.  After several sessions they usually begin to look forward to the massage.  This is a big advance for them. You are on the right track with the ATT, which should help him in many ways.  Good luck!

Laura - I was thinking the same thing.  I used to be a preschool teacher and have seen many different children come through my doors.  I saw some with autism, ADHD/ ADD, and sensory processing issues.  They all had similarities.  One thing I remember with all of them was that they needed a more firm touch; it was almost like the light touch was painful to them? One boy I had with severe sensory processing issues cringed when anyone tried to touch him like you were hurting him, but would calm down so much if you wrapped him in a bear hug- or massaged his arms and legs with a lot of pressure.  This was what we needed to do to calm him for naptime. I agree with talking to him and telling him you are going to touch him, and ask him how it feels, and what would be more comfortable. Then again he may just not like to be touched for a while. Using the oils aromatically would be a good way for him to benefit from them without touching him. good luck

Ramona - Amen to this I have a little boy with sensory processing disorder and he loves deep pressure!  Even just forms of playing with them, anything to give them deep squeezing.

Gin - Roller ball on the bottom of his feet. Or teach him to use them himself. I hesitate to say it but it is a red flag sometimes that something is going on. There is a difference between not wanting displays of affection in front of friends and trying to be a little man and not wanting anyone to touch them ever. I always consider that there may have been some abuse or there is some sort of neurological issue or pain issue.

Nicole - I have ADD and have issues with touch, especially light touches.  It is physically uncomfortable and I get the feeling like nails on a chalkboard type feeling.  (Hope that makes sense).  I agree with the suggestion of a firm touch.  That is much easier for me to handle than a light touch.  If you can help with the ADHD, it should help with his sensory issues.  


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NOTE: The advice shared in this site has not been evaluated by the FDA. The products and methods recommended are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease, nor is it intended to replace proper medical help. As members offer or look for answers, kindly understand that essential oils work to help to bring the body into balance - thus helping the body's natural defenses to restore homeostasis. Essential oils are not used to "treat" medical problems.