What is the Sensory Processing Disorder ICD-10 Code?

This is the only guide you’ll need to understand the sensory processing disorder.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
September 20, 2023
min read

What is sensory processing disorder (SPD)?

SPD, or Sensory Processing Disorder, is defined as the processing, integratory, and sensory imperfections in the brain. When this occurs, the brain interprets sensory inputs incorrectly.

Although this is a rudimentary way of describing a highly complex condition, some parents and psychiatrists classify it as processing variations instead of a disorder. 

Society at large is based on standards that can easily be absorbed negatively by hypersensitive people. For those with the opposite, hyposensitivity, things can be anticlimactic.

As such, people with SPD are often hypersensitive to assorted lists of stimuli, while not being attracted to many more. Seeing, feeling, and touching can alter behavior in some, not always in a positive way. 

Children with SPD struggle to balance themselves and keep themselves calm in any random environment that they're uncomfortable with.

It can result in problems with their behavior and ability to learn. They may shy away from loud noises, bright rooms and objects, and different smells. Other times, they may exhibit clumsiness, walking into different objects or spinning themselves to create a new perception of the senses.

There is debate on whether SPD is a symptom of another disorder, like ADHD, or a part of something deserving of its classification. Detractors of SPD believe that it manifests as a condition, yet some think it belongs in its category.

The question is whether or not sensory problems for behavior-challenged children lead to their avoiding social incidents, or whether it exists as a sign of some greater problem that has yet to be addressed.

Within the medical community, SPD has a transparent existence.

Some physicians don't classify it as a disorder. As such, in some cases, parents describing their child throwing a tantrum at the sound of loud noise have been discouraged from considering SPD as a factor.

While there is loads of fact-based evidence showing how SPD can impact kids, there remains some level of doubt. It has been separated by its diagnosis in the DSM-5 since 2013. 

While the DSM-5 is popularly used by physicians and therapists in the United States to pinpoint various diagnoses, international distinctions of illnesses and conditions may determine from a different set of standards.

For example, the World Health Organization has the International Classification of Diseases, or ICD-10-CM, which lists Sensory Integration Disorders. 

This, in the eyes of some medical professionals, adds legitimacy to SPD falling within a distinctive umbrella of a processing disorder or adds merit to being an individual diagnosis.

Some doctors think that sensory processing problems combine conditions that are easily recognized with other disorders, such as autism and ADHD.

Medical professionals and researchers believe that there isn't enough information to conclude at the moment. However, this could make it hard for clinical studies meant to find a better assessment, where they may go underfunded. 

Parents of children with behavioral disorders, along with some in the medical field, think that SPD studies will get the attention they deserve when the practice is classified by more official sources. However, interest in the condition and its reclassification is gaining support, particularly within the American medical community. 

The spectrum and SPD

Thanks to the DSM-5, sensory problems as a whole were legitimized when it deals with disorders like autism. Reactivity to sensory interpretations lies in the realm of repeated patterns in behavior, specifically as it relates to autistic symptoms.

In one study, it was learned that 95% of autistic kids showed dysfunction in the senses.

Therapists and parents believe that children with autism interpret stimuli in a different way than other children around them. 

The intent to add legitimacy to SPD doesn't come from only medical professionals and researchers. Its classification is imperative when parents are in talks with their child's insurance provider. It's particularly of concern when codes are required in the specification of a disorder, which determines whether it'll be covered.

Due to such confusion and the risk of paying unaffordable medical bills, some parents decide to label their child's SPD as autism. Autism is an assured way of getting a reimbursement.

Parents are encouraged to get more answers from a pediatrician or therapist, including the specifics on treatments being reimbursed by their insurers as anticipated. Some medical professionals recommend codes listed by an international standard rather than the DSM-5. 

SPD and the ICD-10-CM code

In diagnosing other disorders relating to brain development, the ICD-10-CM is relied upon, particularly the F88 code.

Doctors that treat SPD-related symptoms will use the code, as it can relate to things like developmental agnosia, neurodevelopmental disorders, of many kinds, and even global development delay.

Some therapists think SPD symptoms can be present in coordination disorders, such as dyspraxia. 

Some occupational therapists create interventions that help build the senses, which have been proven to mitigate symptoms in other disorders.

In a situation where this is the problem, for example, the ICD-10-CM with the code for the motor function would be advisable. The billable code for this is F82. 

A new code, ICD-11

When billable codes are understood in full, along with research and assistance from a therapist, using them to determine reimbursement becomes significantly less difficult. However, since early 2022, the ICD is officially used by member states of the UN, of which the World Bank is an agency. 

Every time the ICD and DSM are updated, new revisions come with them.

Advocates believe that SPD will be further legitimized as its unique diagnosis in newer editions in the coming years.

Discussion on the matter, the codes used to legitimize it for now, and the expenses in doing so can be off-putting to many parents. It could even lead to fewer children getting the proper help they need. 

On one positive note, Researchers that collaborate domestically, internationally, and in higher education seem confident in SPD awareness being increased, a first step in mitigating sensory conditions not only in children, but all people exhibiting symptoms. 

With worldwide interest in understanding, SPD comes with more funding for research and more affordable insurance plans for parents wherever treatment is available.


steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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