Autism and Sensory Behaviors

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While Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder are, in fact, two different disorders, it is true that children with ASD and SPD often display very similar behaviors.  The following is a list of behaviors that often times appear in children with EITHER Autism OR Sensory Processing Disorder.

Social Anxiety

Autism – Why do we see children with autism show anxiety when entering a new building, going to a sibling’s basketball game, or going on a field trip? Why do parents of children with autism often times struggle greatly with taking their children out into social settings? One of the main reasons that outings can be so stressful for children with autism is very simple – these outings demand a high amount of social interaction, one of the key skills children on the spectrum are lacking. Children with autism struggle with relating to others, initiating and engaging in conversations, and often times enjoy activities that are familiar, routine, and don’t involve other people.
SPD – Children with processing delays frequently struggle with social outings, especially outings to loud, crowded environments. For children with processing delays, the fluorescent lights at the grocery store can be blinding, the sounds at a restaurant can be deafening, and incidental physical encounters while playing at the park can be painful. When children have negative experiences in public over and over, they learn that the “outside world” is a scary, loud, painful place.

Feeding Difficulties

Autism – As research continues, more and more information comes out that shows children on the autism spectrum have significantly higher incidences of stomach/gut/ GI issues as compared to children not on the spectrum. Unfortunately, because of delayed speech and communication skills, it can take years for parents and/or professionals […]

What is Autism?

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Many of you may be confused as to an article on Autism is in a Sensory Processing Disorder website…others of you may know.  The reason it’s included is because we see SO many children on the Autism Spectrum show signs of processing delays.  I also wanted to include an article on what Autism is as I believe some children are getting misdiagnosed – children with processing delays only, children with speech delays, children with behavioral difficulties, and children with “quirky” behaviors are frequent victims.

In fact, it seems that Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) are sometimes the newest “fads” in pediatric developmental disorders.  People with little bits of information see a child on their tip toes and say “That child is toe walking, he must have autism”.  A teacher sees a student that is shy and struggling with making friends and says “She has no social skills, she must have autism”.  A therapist in early intervention works with a child with developmental delays who struggles attending to play tasks and crashes into the furniture and says “He is all over the place, he must have sensory issues”.  While is imperative that we continue to educate people about Autism and SPD, it important to remember to look at the child as a whole being and define them by  1 or 2 characteristics.

I believe this is particular true when determining if a child has autism. It is without a doubt that people all over the world are becoming more aware of Autism Spectrum Disorders…it’s hard to be with articles stating as many as 1 in 38 children could be affected.  Autism is a hot topic but, in my opinion, not well understood.  I’m going to outline […]

Are Autism And Sensory Processing Disorder (Sensory Integration Dysfunction) the same thing?

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Here are some common questions I hear related to the relationship between Autism and SPD along with my short and sweet answers.

Are Autism and Sensory Integration Dysfunction (now called Sensory Processing Disorder) the same?  – NO

Are they related?  – Maybe

Do you have to have SPD to have Autism? And vice versa? NO

Is the treatment the same? Sometimes

Still confused?  Keep reading and I’ll see if we can sort it out a little!

Simply put, no – Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) are not the same thing.  They are two separate disorders that can happen without the other condition being present. Briefly defined, Autism is a neurodevelopment disordered characterized by significant delays in social skills and communication along with restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped play behaviors.  Sensory Processing is the neurological process that organizes sensation from one’s own body and from the environment and makes it possible to use the body effectively within the environment.  Or, more simply put, it is how our neurological system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Sensory Processing Disorder occurs when there is delayed and inefficient neurological processing and the sensory signals do not get interpreted correctly.

While Autism and SPD are two different and distinct conditions, children on the autism spectrum do have a significantly higher rate of sensory processing delays. One study completed by occupational therapists showed that 84% of children with autism spectrum disorders had scores that indicated significant sensory processing delays as compared to only 3% for a group of typically developing children that were not demonstrating any signs of autism spectrum disorders. At this time, there are no studies that prove whether or not early signs of sensory processing delays indicate whether or not a child will go on to […]