One in twenty-five people have a processing disorders, but most go undetected and when untreated it could result in delays in development, attention and behavior problems which can often lead to emotional imbalance, poor self-control, impulsivity, aggression and even mental illness later in life.


But when is the time that parents can really detect and learn if their child has processing disorders? Dr. Julia Harper, PhD, MS, OTRL renowned expert, who specializes in brain development and neural plasticity at her center TheraPeeds in Davie, Florida, says "processing disorders can be detected in infancy, from as early as 6 weeks old." 


"I offer a free screening program called ‘How to keep your child Away from Me’ for any infant from six weeks to twelve months old, that provides parents with answers about their child’s development. I should have a line around my building. Why don’t I? Because parents are misinformed and scared,” Harper says.


Parents need to be brave to hear the truth about their baby’s development. They need to know the signs of a problem in development. Anything before or after the normal development stages are early signs to look out for. “Early development is as bad as late" shares Dr. Harper.


"Parents today are so obsessed with advancement and early stimulation that they are actually doing a detriment to their own child's development and could possibly miss the signs of hidden Processing Disorders. Any item that props a child into a position before they are ready to do it, such as seating devices, standers, jumpers and walkers, actually hinder rather than help development, advises Dr. Harper.


Dr. Harper also shares that children who are advanced and speed through the normal development sequence or even worse, skip steps, are often at an even greater risk of having an undetected processing problem. Parents NEVER think that early is bad. The early development of a milestone such as walking, means that the prior milestone, crawling, is not given the time for it to yield its full benefit to brain and body development. At least when skills are late, parents are concerned and come looking for help, when they are early, parents are proud, mistaking this as achievement and advancement. It is NOT, rather it can be an early sign of processing disorders.


Processing disorders are identified by breakdowns in brain functioning and/or behavioral abilities that cannot be attributed to brain structural damage or abnormalities. In other words, with these disorders, the brain’s structure is intact and should be functioning intact, but IT IS NOT. Rather, poor wiring and connections in the brain can cause disruptions in everything from motor, communication, learning, social, emotional and behavioral function and these problems show themselves early in life through milestones that come in too early OR too late.


These unseen and unrecognized Processing Disorders can be highly correlated with later challenges in life including:

  • Attention problems
  • Poor self-control
  • Impulsivity
  • Aggression
  • Poor academics
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Poor social skills
  • Poor problems solving
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression 


This is why early detection and treatment is critical. We must begin to open our eyes to SEE these early signs in our children and get them the right help early. Are we willing to SEE the early signs? 


An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. If you notice any deviations in your child’s development, including them beginning a skill BEFORE they should OR if your child is now struggling with any of the above issues, you could be dealing with an undiagnosed processing disorder.


Don’t try to be an expert. Stop, get help! As heartbreaking as it is to hear that your child may have a processing disorder, it is far better than dealing with the later ramifications of these types of issues which can include mental illness.


About Julia Harper

For over 20 years, Julia Harper, PhD, MS, OTR/L ( has worked as a pediatric occupational therapist with a focus on creating brain-based therapeutic programs that tap into neural-plasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt and change. Her world-renowned therapy center offers a WAY to HOPE which merges her two models: HOPE (Harper’s Optimal Protocols for Enrichment), which focuses on re-wiring the brain of those with physiological, learning and limitations in attention and WAY (What About You), which retrains the brain to move beyond emotional and thought limitations.