Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month and yesterday, April 2, was Autism Awareness Day. Although ‘J’ is not autistic and Sensory Processing Disorder is not Autism, many with autism also have sensory processing difficulties.

The following was taken from the Star Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder:

Children whose Sensory Processing Disorder conforms to the under-responsivity subtype typically require a great deal of stimulation in order to become alert and active, a behavior often seen in children with autistic spectrum disorders. Meanwhile, other children with ASD have symptoms more similar to the over-responsive subtype of SPD. Because Autism and SPD both have over-responding and under-responding categories, Autims and SPD are sometimes mistaken for one another.

The relationship between SPD and Autism is an area of great interest to scientists and families living with the condition. Studies by the STAR Institute suggest that at least three-quarters of children with autistic spectrum disorders have significant symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder, and probably more depending on how significant symptoms are defined.

However, the reverse is not true. Most children with SPD do not have an autistic spectrum disorder! Our research suggests that the two conditions are distinct disorders just as SPD and ADHD are different disorders.

Appropriate intervention relies upon accurate diagnosis. Pursuing an evaluation for SPD by a qualified occupational therapist with sensory integration training facilitates diagnosis that distinguishes autistic spectrum issues from sensory issues. This distinction increases the likelihood that your child will receive the appropriate treatment for his or her neurological conditions.

With further research into the relationship of SPD and autistic spectrum disorders, the STAR Institute hopes to facilitate better more appropriate intervention for all children who have either – or both – SPD and Autism.

In The Out-of-Sync Child, Carol Stock Kranowitz writes “One of the major deficits of the child is difficulty processing sensory information. SPD underlies the child’s problems with coordination and balance, visual discrimination, and the ability to comprehend gestures, facial expressions, and social cues. For children with NLD, sensory integration therapy very beneficial.”

There are so many great resources available to those affected by autism. Click here to learn more from Autism Speaks.



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