Autism not sole sensory processing disorder
December 8, 2022
To The Eagle:
As a therapist who works with pediatrics, I am so proud of the community support for our local Wahkiakum Autism Awareness organization, (December 1 article, “WAA donates sound cancelling wireless headphones”) However, there’s another disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, that also deals with sensory challenges but is not as easily recognized.
First some facts: Although up to 90% of autistic individuals have sensory processing difficulties, S.P.D. affects up to 16% of the general population. Thanks to improved diagnostic tools, autistic children are now often treated before age three. SPD, however, can slip through the cracks, although teachers and parents alike recognize symptoms: sensory challenges, resulting in avoidance, dyscoordination (think clumsy, falls easily) fidgety, poor focus, inattentiveness, inappropriate responses (often triggered by the brain’s fight/flight response) fear/anxiety, and emotional dysregulation.
In addition, the disorganization of sensory information affects how we perform daily activities, interact with others, react to the environment and learn in the classroom. Sensory processing input is either too much or too little through the central nervous system, resulting in what is often looked upon as behavior (which is devastating to the child) or unfortunately diagnosed as ADHD. If you have a child with these symptoms, parents and teachers are encouraged to investigate the disorder more thoroughly and parents can request a referral for a Sensory Integration Occupational Therapy evaluation through their pediatrician. It could make all the difference in the world for our children.