Autism And Sensory Processing Disorder

How To Help Your Child Manage Spd

Sensory Processing and ASD

Occupational therapy is a fabulous idea if your child has sensory sensitivities. They are trained to tailor a sensory diet for your childs specific needs, and are able to see things through their OT lens the rest of us may not notice. For example, our OT noticed one reason my daughter had trouble with solids was she didnt rotate food around enough in her mouth. She did some specific feeding therapy to address the issue.

Parents can help their children by first listening to their children and determining the root cause of challenging behaviors and finding a way to solve that problem, says Caitlin Sanschagrin, an OT and co-founder and owner of Bright SpOT Pediatric Therapy. Modifications can be small yet very effective. Even changing sanitizers from gel to spray can make a huge difference for a child who is tactile defensive.

Sanschagrin says kids with SPD need to work on their skills in the areas of self-advocacy, sensory exploration, and emotional regulation. Give your child opportunities to voice their own opinions and boundaries, engage in messy play or risky play, and practice mindfulness and calm-down skills.

Treatment For Sensory Processing Disorder

Many families with an affected child find that it is hard to get help. That’s because sensory processing disorder isn’t a recognized medical diagnosis at this time.

Despite the lack of widely accepted diagnostic criteria, occupational therapists commonly see and treat children and adults with sensory processing problems.

Treatment depends on a child’s individual needs. But in general, it involves helping children do better at activities they’re normally not good at and helping them get used to things they can’t tolerate.

Treatment for sensory processing problems is called sensory integration. The goal of sensory integration is to challenge a child in a fun, playful way so they can learn to respond appropriately and function more normally.

One type of therapy is called the Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based model. The therapy was developed by Stanley Greenspan, MD, and Serena Wieder, PhD.

A major part of this therapy is the “floor-time” method. The method involves multiple sessions of play with the child and parent. The play sessions last about 20 minutes.

During the sessions, parents are first asked to follow the child’s lead, even if the playtime behavior isn’t typical. For example, if a child is rubbing the same spot on the floor over and over, the parent does the same. These actions allow the parent to “enter” into the child’s world.

These interactions will help the child move forward and, DIR therapists believe, help with sensory issues as well.

Sensory Health & Wellness

Sensory processing is the neurology of how we feel. The sensory messages we receive from our bodies and the world around us are responded to in everything we do in life whether its the comfort we feel from a warm hug from a loved one, the joy from the music we listen to, the feeling of satiation after eating, the ability to stay upright on moving bus or the act of learning / mastering a sport. In each instance, our sensory systems contribute vital information that we use to be successful. We couldnt do these things without our sensory systems.

Our ability to process sensory data does not usually require conscious thought or cognitive effort. It provides emotional stability, a platform for social interaction, a sense of self, well-being, satisfaction, and/or accomplishment. Sensory processing can also influence every area of living including our preferences in diet, exercise, relationships, career, and hobbies.

The sensory domain is where the brain and body connect and thrive. It is through robust sensory processing that we develop resilience, and establish a tolerance for stressful situations, learn to be calm under pressure, and process experiences that are challenging or upsetting. With well-integrated sensory processing comes a wealth of daily sensory-affective and sensory-motor experiences that cultivates the development of autonomy, competence, interest in learning, goal orientation, sense of purpose, resilience, social engagement, and agency.

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Sensory Processing Disorder Treatment

Treatment is usually done through therapy. Research shows that starting therapy early is key for treating SPD. Therapy can help children learn how to manage their challenges.

Therapy sessions are led by a trained therapist. They will help you and your child learn how to cope with the disorder. Sessions are based on if your child is oversensitive, under-sensitive, or a combination of both.

What Is The Connection Between Spd Autism And Adhd

Pin by Siobhan Pauley on Autism Awareness

As of right now, there is no clear connection between why individuals on the spectrum or who present with ADHD also have SPD, Davis says. But sensory processing disorder, autism spectrum disorder , and ADHD are all neurological disorders. SPD is a comorbidity of the two disordersalthough not every individual with ASD or ADHD will also have SPD, oftentimes they do. In fact, it is suspected that over half the individuals with ADHD also have SPD, and sensory deficits are one of the diagnostic criteria for ASD. There is also a correlation between anxiety and SPD.

Additionally, there has been research that students who are intellectually gifted are more likely to have sensory sensitivities and SPD. However, being sensitive or having another diagnosis such as ADHD or SPD may make it difficult for an intellectually gifted student to be identified because they do not always test well. Anecdotally, as a teacher for gifted students, I can say my gifted students were significantly more sensitive than the overall population.

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Kids With Autism Sensory Processing Disorders Show Brain Wiring Differences

UCSF Study Builds on its Groundbreaking Research Showing Children with SPD Have Measureable Brain Differences

Researchers at UC San Francisco have found that children with sensory processing disorders have decreased structural brain connections in specific sensory regions different than those in autism, further establishing SPD as a clinically important neurodevelopmental disorder.

The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is the first study to compare structural connectivity in the brains of children with an autism diagnosis versus those with an SPD diagnosis, and with a group of typically developing boys. This new research follows UCSFs groundbreaking study published in 2013 that was the first to find that boys affected with SPD have quantifiable regional differences in brain structure when compared to typically developing boys. This work showed a biological basis for the disease but prompted the question of how these differences compared with other neurodevelopmental disorders.

With more than 1 percent of children in the U.S. diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and reports of 5 to 16 percent of children having sensory processing difficulties, its essential we define the neural underpinnings of these conditions, and identify the areas they overlap and where they are very distinct, said senior author Pratik Mukherjee, MD, PhD, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging and bioengineering at UCSF.

Group Differences In The Classroom Context

Statistically significant differences among the four groups were found, as revealed by both the MANOVA performed with the scores obtained on the SPM-Main Classroom Form , and the ANOVA performed with the scores obtained on the TOT subscale . As Table 3 shows, the teachers of the children with neurodevelopmental disorders evaluated their pupils’ characteristics of SP, SOC, and praxis as significantly more dysfunctional than the teachers of the children in the CG, except on the HEA subscale, where there were no statistically significant differences between the CG and the ADHD Group, and the BOD subscale, where there were no differences between the CG and the ASD Group.

Table 3. T-score means, standard deviations, and F-values for SPM-classroom form subscales.

Comparing the three groups with neurodevelopmental disorders, the most affected groups were the ASD+ADHD and ASD groups because the ASD+ADHD Group did not obtain worse scores than the ASD Group on any subscale. The ASD+ADHD Group obtained worse scores than the ADHD Group on the HEA and SOC subscales, and the ASD Group obtained worse scores than the ADHD Group on the SOC subscale, but the ADHD Group did not obtain worse scores than the ASD Group on any subscale.

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What Is Autistic Spectrum Disorder/condition

Autistic Spectrum Disorder , or autism, is a developmental disability which affects how a person communicates with others and experiences the world around them. Autistic children and adults will experiences difficulties with social communication and interactions. Typically, they will have some form of restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests. Differences in sensory responses were included in the 2013 update of the DMS-5, a manual used by clinicians to make an autism diagnosis.

Whilst it was well known prior to this that sensory processing differences and autism/ASD often occurred together, this is the first time it had been formally recognised. The DSM-5 states that the patterns of behaviours, activities or interests may be due to Hyper or hypo reactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment . This means that autistic children or adults are likely to process sensory information in the environment differently to others.

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Get Help With Spd & Autism

AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER SYMPTOMS // Is it sensory processing or autism?

Although sensory processing disorder affects many, people with ASD are more likely to experience it. People with autism tend to also be diagnosed with SPD, but not everyone with autism has this additional disorder. Treatment for autism and sensory processing disorder can include therapy, medication, or transcranial magnetic stimulation .

If you or a loved one are struggling with symptoms of SPD, autism, or both to Brain Therapy TMS today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our program.

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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√Ę ability to define the boundaries of the disorder and makes correlational studies, like those on structural brain abnormalities, less convincing.

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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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

Difficulty Learning New Things

Best 25+ Sensory processing disorder symptoms ideas on Pinterest ...

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 Sensory Integration Disorder

While some people do experience dysfunction in the way that they experience sensory input, sensory integration disorder isnt actually a defined disorder in the DSM-5. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics specifically recommends against diagnosing sensory processing disorder and instead considering other underlying causes or conditions .

. According to the ICDL-DMIC, the three types of sensory processing disorders include:

  • Sensory modulation challenges: These are characterized by a hyper-reactivity/hypo-reactivity to sensory input or sensory-seeking.
  • Sensory discrimination challenges: These can cause trouble identifying or distinguishing different types of sensory input.
  • Sensory-based motor challenges: These are characterized by difficulties moving or stabilizing the body and changes in muscle tone or tension.

When someone has sensory processing difficulties, their symptoms can vary depending on what type of sensory challenges they experience.

Myth #: Kids With Sensory Processing Issues Lack Self

Fact: Sensory processing issues can make it harder for kids to respond appropriately to sensory input. That may look like a lack of self-control. However, its an in-the-moment response, not a lack of self-control. For instance, oversensitive kids may try to get away from a certain stimulation because it can trigger a meltdown, much like you might pull your hand away from an open flame.

They may bump into people because of motor skills challenges. Or they may crash into things or fidget with objects when they seek out sensations.

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Sensory Integration And Processing Difficulties

Construct-related evidence relating to sensory integration and processing difficulties from Ayres’ early research emerged from factor analysis of the earliest test the SCISIT and Mulligan’s 1998 “Patterns of Sensory Integration Dysfunctions: A Confirmatory Factor Analysis”. Sensory integration and processing patterns recognised in the research support a classification of difficulties related to:

  • Sensory registration and perception
  • Sensory reactivity
  • Postural, ocular and bilateral integration

Processing Disorders And Autism

Occupational Therapy For Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder

There are a number of newly-minted diagnoses that have been invented to explain many of the symptoms of the modern epidemic that covers autism.

They include:

These conditions frequently display such similar general patterns that, depending on a practitioners inclination to be a splitter or a lumper, the available treatment regimens could vary widely. For example, AD and HD are usually treated as ADHD, with stimulant medications, even though inattention, poor focus, distractibility and hyperactivity may arise from a variety of physiological conditions.Likewise, aggression, obsessive compulsive behaviors, and opposition are usually prescribed anti-anxiety medications, such as Risperdone, Abilify, Intuniv, or even Prozac and Zoloft.


Some are more or less related, and others may be merely due to immaturity, therefore patience and time will yield preferable results.

Treatments:It is not difficult to imagine that processing difficulties in vision, hearing, touch, and the other senses, can lead to signs, such as repetitive behaviors or stimming, to alleviate the sensory overload. Supplements, such as magnesium, turmeric, epsom salt baths, essential oils and even HBOT could address those issues, in addition to traditional therapies. Most parents of children with ASD own at least one trampoline.

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How Can I Help Support Sensory Processing Difficulties In Asd

The good news is that you can use numerous sensory strategies and make many environmental adjustments. The challenge is that, as every child or adult with autism has a different sensory profile, there is no one size fits all solution. Each person with sensory challenges will require their own unique set of supports. An occupational therapist is typically the best professional to provide you with support in this area.

The most recent recommendation from the American Journal of Occupational Therapy is that, before sensory strategies are used, there must be documented assessment of need. Without assessment, a child may just be given what is available. For example, a wobble cushion helped Jack last year, so lets give it to Suzie this year.

It is really important that those providing sensory strategies have a good understanding of which senses the equipment or activity helps. This is why we explain clearly why you might use each strategy and the safety considerations in our online Sensory Processing Disorder training.

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Sensory Processing In Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder And/or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder In The Home And Classroom Contexts

  • 1Teaching and Scholastic Organization Department, Faculty of Philosophy and Educational Sciences, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
  • 2Basic Psychology Department, Faculty of Psychology, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
  • 3Developmental and Educational Psychology Department, Faculty of Psychology, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain

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