What Types Of Behaviors Are Associated With Sensory Processing Disorder
SPD doesnt look the same for everyone. Signs usually reflect what the sensitivities are. For example, people with SPD may avoid physical contact if they are sensitive to touch. Others may need increased physical contact if they are under-responsive to touch.
Having a high pain tolerance
Having difficulty concentrating in situations with loud noise
Craving or avoiding very strong tastes
Spinning or rocking to feel comfortable
Being sensitive to certain types of clothing
Some children have physical limitations due to SPD. Sensory processing problems make it hard to plan and initiate movement, leading to clumsiness or problems with coordination. Children may not crawl normally, and they may learn to walk later in life. There may be a lag in fine motor skills such as holding a pencil. As a result, children with SPD may have trouble learning in school.
What Do Sensory Issues Look Like
Many people with autism show certain behaviors when they are experiencing a sensory issue:
- Increased movement, such as jumping, spinning or crashing into things
- Increased stimming, such as hand flapping, making repetitive noises or rocking back and forth
- Talking faster and louder, or not talking at all
- Covering ears or eyes
- Difficulty recognizing internal sensations like hunger, pain or the need to use the bathroom
- Refusing or insisting on certain foods or clothing items
- Frequent chewing on non-food items
- Frequent touching of others or playing rough
- Difficulty communicating or responding as the brain shifts resources to deal with sensory input
- Escalating, overwhelming emotions or need to escape a situation
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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Relationship To Other Disorders
Sensory integration and processing difficulties can be a feature of a number of disorders, including anxiety problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ,food intolerances, behavioral disorders, and particularly, autism spectrum disorders. This pattern of comorbidities poses a significant challenge to those who claim that SPD is an identifiably specific disorder, rather than simply a term given to a set of symptoms common to other disorders.
Two studies have provided preliminary evidence suggesting that there may be measurable neurological differences between children diagnosed with SPD and control children classified as neurotypical or children diagnosed with autism. Despite this evidence, that SPD researchers have yet to agree on a proven, standardized diagnostic tool undermines researchers’ ability to define the boundaries of the disorder and makes correlational studies, like those on structural brain abnormalities, less convincing.
Difficulty Learning New Things
Children with SPD tend to struggle learning new activities, and often take longer than other children to master the same activity. This can lead to mild developmental delays.
The signs of SPD vary greatly and arent always easy to diagnose. There are, however, certain behaviors that require attention and treatment. By diagnosing SPD early you can ensure your child gets the necessary tools to lead a fulfilling life.
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What Is The Difference Between Sensory Processing Disorder And Autism
What is the Difference Between Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism?
There are two disorders that children are commonly diagnosed with today that are seemingly one in the same: sensory processing disorder and autism. While this may seem true to you, there are some differences between these disorders that you should know about.
Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder
Originally coined Sensory Integration Dysfunction, this is a neurological disorder. Children who are diagnosed with SPD perceive information in a way that results in them abnormally responding to it. Their reactions are different than what youd expect. For instance, they may:
- Be afraid of sudden, high-pitched, or loud noises
- Notice background noises that people around them dont hear
- Avoid physical contact
- Fear being in a crowd, climbing, falling , or playing on the playground
Instead of being a neurological disorder, autism is defined as a developmental disorder. There are various levels of severity that a child may encounter here. However, it always has the same characteristics, which include:
Understanding the Difference Between Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism
Parents who live in McKinney, Texas have a great resource available to help them Speech & OT. Over the years, weve helped many parents reach a successful diagnosis for their child and we look forward to helping you, too.
Causes Of Sensory Processing Disorder
The exact cause of sensory processing problems has not been identified. But a 2006 study of twins found that hypersensitivity to light and sound may have a strong genetic component.
Other experiments have shown that children with sensory processing problems have abnormal brain activity when they are simultaneously exposed to light and sound.
Still other experiments have shown that children with sensory processing problems will continue to respond strongly to a stroke on the hand or a loud sound, while other children quickly get used to the sensations.
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Resources For Spd & Autism
There are several resources available out there for parents, children, families, and individuals with sensory processing disorder and autism.
- Your pediatrician or primary care provider: This is often the first place to seek help and insight into what local resources are available for you or your child. The doctor can also offer referrals to specialists who can help.
- Autism Response Team : Hosted by Autism Speaks, this toll-free information line can connect families with personalized resources for autism support.
- National Autism Association : NAA hosts local chapters. They also provide online resources for families and information on finding a local support group for autism.
- Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support: This community provides resources and information for parents of children with SPD.
- SPD Support: This organization provides resources and support for families impacted by sensory processing disorder.
Does Every Teen On The Autism Spectrum Have Sensory Processing Disorder
While many individuals on the autism spectrum struggle with sensory sensitivities, not everyone with Sensory Processing Disorder is on the spectrum and vice versa. It is a common assumption that signs of sensory processing issues and attention issues may be related to co-occurring disorders, but they may also be explained by an autism diagnosis, based on overlap in diagnostic criteria. Understanding the symptoms of the respective disorders can offer diagnostic clarity and more accurate treatment recommendations.
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The Sensory Spectrum And Sensory Processing Disorders
Whats inside this article: An introduction to the sensory spectrum and sensory processing disorders. Links to detailed articles for each of the 8 sensory systems are at the bottom of this article.
Sensory processing is a normal process where the brain and nervous system receive information from all of the senses then interprets this information to create appropriate motor and behavioral responses.
Typical sensory processing lets us respond to the input we receive both automatically and appropriately. For most of us, this happens seamlessly. We dont even think about it.
Everyone processes sensory input differently, The Sensory Spectrum is used to describe the way our bodies uniquely receive and process sensory input.
Talking Sense: What Sensory Processing Disorder Says About Autism
Some children are highly sensitive to sound, sight or touch, whereas others seem almost numb. Exploring the differences may offer insights into autism.
Jack Craven has superpowers. When his mother, Lori, misplaces an item in the house, she asks the 12-year-old to look in your head, through the rich catalog of visual information he seems to assemble without effort. Jack always finds the lost object. His astonishing memory for faces enables him to pick out someone hes seen only once or twice before from a sea of strangers in a crowded school gymnasium. His sharp hearing makes him an excellent vocal mimic. Request that he sing a Beatles tune and hell ask if you want it sung in the style of Lennon or McCartney.
But great powers, as any superhero narrative goes, come with great challenges. He endures, rather than enjoys, the arcade birthday parties popular among tween boys in suburban Atlanta where he lives. Theyre just too noisy, too busy, too overstimulating. Jacks hearing is so sensitive that he cant always eat at the table with his family, because the sound and sight of them chewing might make him throw up. As an infant, he never slept for more than four hours at a stretch, and had to be held upright the whole time, his stomach pressed against his mothers chest and her palm pressed atop his head.
Shes not afraid of bears or afraid of dying, Linda told the pediatrician. Shes afraid of socks.
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A Glimpse Of Sensory Processing Disorder
What does this phenomenon look like in everyday life? Well, it may look very familiar to you as a parent. The symptoms of SPD overlap with stereotypically autistic behaviors.
Though SPD isnt part of the formal diagnostic criteria for autism, sensory issues are prevalent among the ASD population.
Do you recognize your child in these descriptions?
- One morning, your son is comfortable with brushing his teeth. However, the next morning he protests that the toothpaste is too spicy or that the bristles are too sharp.
- One afternoon, your daughter enjoys the sound of classical music playing on the car speakers at a preset volume. But the next day, she exclaims that the very same volume level is too loud and that it hurts her ears.
If these examples hit home, know that your child with autism isnt trying to manipulate or gaslight you. Children with SPD really do experience sensory input differently from day to day. At times they struggle to process accustomed sights, sounds, tastes, scents, or touches.
As is the case with autism, SPD impacts every area of functioning. It affects everything from socialization to academics.
How Do Sensory Issues Affect Those With Autism
Having difficulty with sensory processing is like being born without a filter. For example, it is difficult for the autistic person to filter out background noises that the normal person does not even register consciously. The sound of the cars honking outside, water dripping from the faucet, the fluorescent lights buzzing and pulsing, and the air conditioning unit humming are all being received into the brain at the same time and with the same intensity as the person who is speaking to him or her. It makes social situations difficult because it is hard to concentrate or filter-out the unimportant stimuliand that is just one example of the difficulty with auditory processing while trying to listen to someone speaking. Someone who experiences more than just auditory processing issues is also attempting to filter through sights, smells, touch, etc. All these different sensory stimuli are being processed in the brain, however, differently, than the normal person. Too much stimuli coming in at any one time can cause sensory overload leading to meltdowns, or complete shutdowns of the sensory system.
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How To Help A Child With Sensory Processing Disorder
The sensory system of a child with Sensory Processing Disorder is challenged daily. With that being said, it is important to find the appropriate interventions, therapeutic strategies, toys, clothing, and modifications to implement in order to help a child organize their sensory system. Below is a list of six ways to help a child with SPD organize their sensory system:
1. Sensory Integration Therapy is a specialized therapy implemented by a trained Occupational Therapist. Children in therapy sessions are exposed to sensory-stimulating activities based on their sensory needs. The OT works and teaches the child coping strategies while being exposed to stimulating stimuli. The activities are presented in a controlled, fun, and structured way that allows the child to be experience sensory stimulation without feeling overwhelmed.
2. Sensory Diet is a treatment approach in which an Occupational Therapist designs a list of physical activities that a child can do throughout the day either at home or school. These sensory diet activities are designed to meet the sensory needs of the child and to provide them with sensory input. Activities can either calm or arouse the sensory system
5. Sensory Toys are toys that are designed to help soothe a child with Sensory Processing Disorder. Below is a list of toys that are best suited for specific sensory systems:
Sensory Sensitive Wearing Options
AngelSense comes with a soft, durable wearing sleeve and fasteners that are non-removable. There are also optional wearing accessories that are all made especially for those with sensory sensitivities like the belt and undershirt with a compression fit and no tags.
AngelSense is committed to creating a safer world for those with special needs and providing peace of mind to their families.
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How Do You Treat Sensory Processing Disorder
No medications are approved for treatment of SPD. Treatment typically involves different kinds of therapy, including play-based therapy. Occupational therapy clinics contain various toys, swings, and furniture. These items allow children to work on coordination, balance, and sensory needs.
Additional interventions are targeted to the child based on their sensitivity. For example, some children need breaks from a loud classroom to avoid overstimulation. Others may need fidget toys or a special kind of chair that provides sensory input and comfort. Occupational therapists often recommend a sensory diet that fulfills sensory needs. The sensory diet differs according to individual needs, so it may include more stimulation or less stimulation.
If a child with SPD has a speech delay, a speech and language pathologist can work with them to improve their speech. A physical therapist may work with children who have physical limitations to improve strength and flexibility.
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.
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Skepticism Over What Treatment Does
One of the most hot-button aspects of the SPD debate is this claim, of Jarrow and others, that sensory-based protocols, used correctly, can actually rewire the brain, allowing for more optimal regulation. Skeptics agree that kids can change, but argue that whats being called sensory rewiring may really just be behavioral training.
Dr. Rosenthal gives an example: Take a kid whos behaviorally out of control. Lets say he spends several days a week working with an OT in a sensory gym, and he gets himself under control. And the effect seems to improve his self-regulation over time. Somethings happening in the brain, maybe some neuronal patterns or some axons wiring together, creating better regulation in brain. Is it sensory rewiring of some kind or learning a new calming method?
The challenge, he adds, is to isolate the component of therapy thats actually helping the child.
The SPD Foundation, which campaigned unsuccessfully to have the disorder listed as a separate diagnosis on the DSM-5, is doing its own ongoing research through its SPD Scientific Working Group. Two researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University are now testing the short-term effects of sensory-based therapy in improving attention and functional performance in children ages 6 to 10 with typical development, ADHD, and autism.
Causes Of Sensory Processing Disorders
Although researchers have identified that both genetic and environmental factors can contribute to sensory issues, there is no known cause. Children who are born prematurely or children who have a behavioral and/or developmental disorder are likely to have sensory issues. Often, children who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or ADD/ADHD are also diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder.
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