Sensory Processing Disorder VS. Autism


You may wonder what the difference between autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder is. There are children who are sensitive to certain food and textures, loud noises and have difficulty transitioning. Parents suspect autism but instead their child is diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, also known as SPD. SPD is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. Formerly referred to as sensory integration dysfunction, it is not currently recognized as a distinct medical diagnosis.

Children who are diagnosed with SPD require a lot of stimulation in order to become alert and active, which is often a behavior that children on the autism spectrum display. However, it doesn’t mean that a child with SPD necessarily has autism. People with autism may exhibit a large variety of symptoms such as “being non-verbal or delayed in speech, obsessive interests, low to no social skills, avoiding eye contact, unusual eating and sleeping habits, meltdowns, and unusual mood or emotional reactions.” According to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder statistics, at least ¾ of children with autism have significant symptoms of SPD but most children with a diagnosis of SPD does have autism.

Parents should remember that SPD is a disorder that affects how the nervous system receives messages from the senses. The brain doesn’t know how to process the message which leads to overreaction or vice versa. However, children with autism have brain differences in the areas related to facial emotions and memory.

It takes time for SPD to be seen as a standalone disorder, and once it’s diagnosed, it doesn’t mean that your child has autism.

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