An Introduction to Sensory Processing Disorder
Until recently, sensory processing disorder has always been associated with ADHD or autism, and not always recognized as its own distinct disorder. It’s also not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists. (1)
“Sensory processing disorders (SPD) are more prevalent in children than autism and as common as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, yet the condition receives far less attention partly because it’s never been recognized as a distinct disease.” (1)
Sensory processing disorders affect 5-16 percent of school-aged children in the United States. (2)
What is Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory processing disorder is a global umbrella term that includes all three primary types — sensory modulation disorder, sensory discrimination disorder, and sensory-based motor disorder. (5)
Occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D., described SPD as a neurological “traffic jam” that “keeps certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly.” (4) When the brain struggles to read the sensory inputs, individuals may appear agitated or confused. (3)
Children (and adults) who struggle to process their environment may demonstrate clumsiness, poor fine motor skills, easy distractibility, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression and school failure. (4) They may react inappropriately or hyperactively to sounds, sights and textures. (1,3)
Because children with SPD have difficulty listening, focusing, and processing information, they may be thought to have ADHD, but SPD is different. (3) With SPD, the observed hyperactivity is usually in response to certain things that happened or didn’t happen in the surrounding environment.
The SPD Foundation has a list of red flags that could indicate that your child might have SPD. You can see that list here.
The SPD Foundation also has a checklist of characteristics for children who might have sensory processing disorder.