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Is Autism A Sensory Disorder

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How Do I Help A Child Or Adult With A Sensory Processing Disorder

Autism – Sensory Processing Disorder

A common treatment for a sensory processing disorder is occupational therapy. An occupational therapist will fully assess you or your child and develop a treatment plan. The occupational therapist needs to figure out what sub-type of a sensory disorder is present. Many occupational therapists use a special treatment called sensory integration to help assist a client. Sensory integration involves both sensory and motor activities designed by the occupational therapist. The repetition and practice over time improves the brains ability to receive, understand and respond to information from the senses is more organized.

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Is There Any Way To Treat Sensory Processing Disorder

Yes, there are many ways to treat SPD, and the trick is to find the right one or combination of different ones to help your child. Occupational therapists who are skilled at sensory issues can be very helpful. Some things might just need to be left out of the diet, or in the closet until your child is old enough to develop coping mechanisms on their own. The most important thing to remember is that every person with SPD is different and will experience the world in ways that you might not understand. Developing a mutual language around what they are feeling and experiencing will be one of the best tools you can help develop. As Paula Aquilla said:

The key to understanding a persons response to sensation or their need to seek out sensation is to observe with an open mind and without judgement. We can all become detectives to determine possible underlying reasons for a childs response to the sensation we present when we want to interact.

How Autism And Sensory Processing Disorder Are Linked

Do you think sensory issues are at the root of what makes autistic people different?

Thats the powerful question that Maia Szalavitz of TIME Magazine asked world-renowned professor, author, and self-advocate Temple Grandin in a 2013 interview.

Grandins reply? I think the core criterion is the social awkwardness, but the sensory issues are a serious problem . they make it impossible to operate in the environment where youre supposed to be social.

With that statement, Grandin linked sensory issues and socialization, and hinted at the relationship between sensory processing disorder and autism as well.

SPD is a condition that affects the way that the brain communicates with the rest of the body. When the brain of an individual with SPD receives sensory information through the nervous system, it has trouble converting those signals into typical reactions.

As a result, the individuals physical, emotional, and social responses appear unusual. Plus, SPD can manifest differently from one day to the next, further complicating the issue.

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Treatment Methods For Overlapping Sensory Processing Disorder & Autism

Sensory processing disorder and autism so commonly overlap that most treatment methods will include methods for managing sensory issues and symptoms of autism together. For the best outcome, both SPD and autism should be treated simultaneously through a comprehensive treatment plan where the entire intervention team targets symptoms of both disorders.

If you suspect overlapping sensory processing disorder with autism in your child, talk to your childs pediatrician and work with your medical providers to ensure that both disorders are addressed. Treatment should be specific to the needs of each child individually, as there is no single standard of care that will work for everyone.

Treatment methods may include:

  • Behavioral therapies, such as applied behavior analysis , which can aid in promoting desired behaviors while decreasing unwanted actions through positive reinforcement.
  • Occupational therapy, including sensory integration therapy and implementation of a sensory diet that helps with sensory processing and improvement in daily life functioning.
  • Speech and language therapy to improve communication and lower frustration levels.
  • Social skills and support groups for peer interactions and teaching life skills.
  • Family therapies to help entire families learn how to work together and support each other.

What About Sensory Processing Disorder In Adults


Adults have sensory processing disorders too. Most often, these sensory symptoms have existed since childhood. Sometimes a sensory disorder is better managed in adulthood because adults have greater autonomy over their daily life and can choose to live their life in a way that avoids some sensory challenges. Nevertheless, adults can seek treatment too.

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Spd Or Asd: Finding The Right Diagnosis

It is important for parents to find a professional who can provide the correct diagnosis, as early as possible, so children can receive the appropriate treatment. Many doctors will try to help alleviate the sensory issues while treating the autism spectrum disorder, if that diagnosis applies.

Various skills that a child learns to do at different age levels is called a developmental milestone, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ,

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for general development using standardized, validated tools at 9, 18, and 30 months and for autism at 18 and 24 months or whenever a parent or provider has a concern. The CDC website has a list of the milestones by months and years, which parents can check to compare their childs progress and discuss with the pediatrician if there is a concern. Once it has been determined that the child is falling behind on any of the milestones, and if there is a concern of autism spectrum disorder, a recommendation should be made for the child to be examined by a specialist. This could be a developmental pediatrician, a pediatric neurologist, or possibly a child psychologist or psychiatrist.

How Does A Store Create A Sensory

The following list will help get you started creating a sensory-friendly shopping experience. Furthermore, this list of recommendations, when implemented will make shopping a more comfortable experience for people with other disorders, disabilities, or differences.

First, ensure your facility follows standards and laws regarding accessibility. Moreover, different countries, states, provinces, or municipalities have different standards regarding accessibility. You must consult and follow those accommodations for people with disabilities.

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About Sensory Sensitivities And Autism

Our environments are full of sensory information, including noise, crowds, light, clothing, temperature and so on. We process this information using our senses sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.

Autistic children are sometimes oversensitive or undersensitive to sensory information. This means their senses take in either too much or too little information from the environment around them.

Not all autistic children have sensory sensitivities, but some might have several.

Oversensitive to sensory informationWhen autistic children are oversensitive to sensory information, its called hypersensitivity. These children try to avoid sensory experiences for example, they might cover their ears when they hear loud noises, eat only foods with a certain texture or taste, wear only certain types of loose-fitting clothing, or resist having hair cuts or brushing teeth.

Undersensitive to sensory informationWhen autistic children are undersensitive to sensory information, its called hyposensitivity. These children seek out sensory experiences for example, they might wear tight-fitting clothing, look for things to touch, hear or taste, or rub their arms and legs against things.

Oversensitive and undersensitive to sensory informationSome children can have both oversensitivities and undersensitivities in different senses, or even the same sense. For example, they might be oversensitive to some sound frequencies and undersensitive to others.

Dramatic Mood Swings And Tantrums

Sensory Features in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Research and Evidence, with Q& A

What parents often notice first is odd behaviors and wild mood swings, strange at best, upsetting at worst. Often its an outsized reaction to a change in environment a radical, inexplicable shift in the childs behavior.

For instance, a first-grader may do fine in a quiet setting with a calm adult. But place that child in a grocery store filled with an overload of visual and auditory stimulation and you might have the makings of an extreme tantrum, one thats terrifying for both the child and parent.

These kids temper tantrums are so intense, so prolonged, so impossible to stop once theyve started, you just cant ignore it, notes Nancy Peske, whose son Cole struggles with sensory issues. Peske is coauthor with occupational therapist Lindsey Biel, who worked with Cole, of Raising a Sensory Smart Child.

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Sensory Overload In Autism

Sensory overload involves more than just sounds. It can be any environmental stimulus that interferes with the stability of the environment. In some cases, the individual can be so sensitive as to react adversely to sensations you might not even notice.

Examples include:

Safety Concerns Of Spd And How Angelsense Can Help

Many children with sensory processing disorder can become overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed. This can lead to them acting out and putting them in harms way. AngelSense GPS Tracker for Autism is an advanced safety device to keep children with special needs safe.

Wandering and sensory processing disorder

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Distinguishing Sensory Processing Disorder From Autism

Hi everyone,

I came across this article and I thought it was a good one to share! Although Autism awareness is on the rise, fewer people know about Sensory Processing Disorder . If you would like some general information about SPD and Autism, check out the websites pasted below:


Sensory Processing Disorders and autism are two conditions that can exist one without the other or they can be comorbid. Making a clear distinction between the two is important especially since SPD can look like autism. SPD is diagnosed by an occupational therapist that is trained in sensory integration. A child with SPD can easily be misdiagnosed for a child with ASD due to sensory processing problems/symptoms children with autism experience. As I have defined in previous blogs, ASD is a neurological disorder that affects normal brain function and significantly impacts development of the persons communication and social interaction skills. SPD was formerly known as sensory integration dysfunction. Our neurological system helps process signals received from our senses by turning them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Therefore, SPD affects how a person receives, integrates and makes sense of sensory information.

Here are some ways to distinguish SPD in young children, as the characteristics below are unique to SPD. As always, feel free to post any questions.

What Might Asd And Sensory Processing Challenges Look Like Functionally Day To Day

Recognizing and responding to students with sensory issues ...

On a typical day, as the videos show, there are many different sensory inputs that our brains need to process. The brain needs to decide whether to respond or to ignore. The world is full of noises. If youre sensitive to noise sirens, clocks ticking, loud vehicles, dogs barking, music class, playground noises, vacuum cleaners and hand dryers might be an issue. The world is also full of things to look at and smell. This can prove very distracting if you are more sensitive to visual inputs or smells.

Our touch senseis constantly working. Difficulties might occur with clothing fabrics, shoes, socks, haircuts, hair brushing or washing, teeth brushing, messy play and food textures for those who aresensitive to touch. If processing is slower it will take longer to respond to messages from the touch system.

Those who are slower to process proprioceptive sensory input have poor awareness of where their body is and poor coordination. Sometimes they find slow movements more difficult. This could mean seeking out more movement by constantly being on the go and fidgeting. There could also be sensitivity to movement, or vestibular sensory input, which often results in avoidance of moving surfaces, swings and other playground equipment.

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How Frequently Do Asd And Sensory Processing Issues Occur

In one survey* of adults with autism, 83% of respondents said that they had some challenges with sensory processing. In the same survey respondents also listed sensory processing challenges as contributing to their increased levels of stress. The percent of children with ASD and sensory processing issues has been reported to be between 69% to 95% depending on the study**. It also occurs frequently enough for it to be included as part of the diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5 update in 2013.

Creating A Sensory Diet To Manage Sensory Issues

Another tool used by occupational therapy practitioners is the creation of a sensory diet. This sensory diet is a treatment approach that can be used by families, parents, and caregivers to utilize things that have a calming effect on the specific individual.

The sensory diet will be directed at the individuals specific sensory needs. It can also help to increase sensory exposure in a gradual manner to improve tolerance. A sensory diet is not food-related, although it can include meal and eating habits.

A sensory diet typically consists of activities that can be practiced various times a day. These methods can help a child stabilize if they are overstimulated. They can also provide sensory input that the body needs throughout the day to improve attention, focus, regulation abilities, responsiveness, and adaptability. Children can often learn how to perform these activities on their own to help regulate themselves.

While families will contribute valuable information that factors into the sensory diet, the treatment plan will need to be created and overseen by a licensed occupational therapy provider.

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Getting Help For Sensory Sensitivities

Occupational therapists can assess your child’s sensory sensitivities and develop a plan for managing them. They can also help you come up with appropriate strategies if your child self-stimulates or stims.

Dietitians and speech pathologists might be able to help if your child has taste and smell sensitivities that also cause eating issues.

If you think some sensory issues are happening because your child isnt seeing properly, you could get your childs vision checked by an optometrist. This will help rule out any visual problems.

If your child ignores sounds and people speaking, you could get your childs hearing checked by an audiologist. This will help you rule out any hearing problems.

If your childs behaviour hurts themselves or other people, its best to get professional advice. An experienced professional can help you understand and manage your childs behaviour. A good first step is talking with your paediatrician or psychologist.

Supporting Autistic Sensory Issues And Needs

Autism Jargon: Sensory Processing Disorder

If youve read any of Harklas blog articles on Autism and Sensory Processing, you probably have a solid basic understanding of the language occupational therapists frequently speak!

Fortunately, supporting sensory needs for those with autism is the exact same as for those who only have sensory processing disorder. You can read more about our tips and guides to sensory processing disorder here.

Youll read about:

  • Designing a Sensory Diet that works for you and your child
  • Assembling a Sensory Tool Box of activities and equipment that can be used at home and on-the-go
  • Some of the top Sensory Toys, Stim-Toys, and Fidgets to improve self-regulation
  • Sensory Integration Therapy
  • Sleep Issues, Autism, and how to support sleep with sensory input like weighted blankets

Let us at Harkla know how else we can support you, your child with autism, and how to address these sensory issues!


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Myth #: Sensory Processing Issues Is Just Another Name For Adhd

Fact: ADHD and sensory processing issues have some things in common, like fidgeting, struggling with personal space, and even experiencing sensory overload. And tools like weighted blankets and fidgets can benefit kids with both. But even though they have some overlap and can co-occur, there are key differences between ADHD and sensory issues. Not all kids with ADHD have sensory issues, just like not all kids with sensory issues have ADHD.

By understanding more about sensory processing issues, you can help dispel myths others have. Get tips for talking to your childs teacher about sensory processing issues. And read what one dad wants people to know about parenting a child with sensory processing issues.

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Differences Between Autism And Sensory Processing Disorder

Studies have been conducted to show the differences between children with autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder. In one study, 210 participants were included with 68 having autism spectrum disorder, 79 having sensory processing disorder, and 63 with typical development . Any child who had ASD with SPD was not included in the study.

Children were scored for Sensory Over-Reactivity , where sensory items bother a child Sensory Under-Reactivity , where sensory items were not noticed by the child and Sensory Craving , where the child needed certain sensory stimulation. They were also scored for their Empathy Quotient , or how easily or strongly they reacted to or were able to gauge another persons feelings. Finally, the children were scored for their Systemizing Quotient , or how interested the child was in understanding how the internal components of a machine worked.

They found that for Sensory Under-Reactivity, the ASD group scored higher than the SPD group, which scored higher than the TD group. For Sensory Over- Reactivity, the ASD and SPD groups were relatively the same, but much higher than the TD group. For Sensory Craving, the ASD and SPD groups were about the same as each other, but with higher scores than the TD group. In the category of Systemizing Quotient, children with ASD scored higher than both the SPD and TD groups.

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