The Link Between Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism

August 8, 2023 | Uncategorized

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are two complex conditions that often co-occur, leading to significant challenges for children impacted. Understanding the relationship between these conditions is crucial for parents and caregivers seeking effective therapies to help their child across different environments.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition in which the brain struggles to effectively process and interpret sensory information from the environment. These sensory inputs include touch, sound, sight, taste, smell, and movement. Common signs of SPD include meltdowns in response to sensory stimuli, difficulties with transitions, and sensitivity to clothing textures or bright lights.

Subtypes of Sensory Processing Disorders

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a complex condition that can manifest in various ways, affecting individuals differently based on their sensory challenges. There are three primary types of SPD, each involving distinct patterns of sensory processing difficulties:

Sensory Modulation Disorder

This type of SPD involves difficulties in regulating and modulating responses to sensory stimuli. Individuals with sensory modulation disorder may experience hypersensitivity, where they overreact to sensory inputs, leading to intense emotional and physical responses. On the other hand, some individuals may exhibit hyposensitivity, where they underreact to sensory stimuli, leading to a lack of awareness or response to certain sensations. Sensory modulation disorder can significantly impact an individual’s ability to navigate their environment and engage in everyday activities.

Sensory Discrimination Disorder

Sensory discrimination disorder relates to challenges in accurately perceiving and differentiating between various sensory inputs. This means that individuals may struggle to recognize and interpret subtle differences in sensations like touch, temperature, or sound. For example, they may have difficulty distinguishing between rough and smooth textures or identifying specific sounds in a noisy environment. This type of SPD can lead to challenges in fine motor skills, coordination, and overall sensory integration.

Sensory-Based Motor Disorder

Sensory-based motor disorder is characterized by difficulties in executing motor actions effectively due to sensory processing issues. Individuals with this type of SPD may have trouble planning and executing movements in response to sensory cues. This can result in challenges with balance, coordination, and motor planning. Children with sensory-based motor disorder may appear clumsy or have difficulty participating in physical activities.

Autism and Sensory Processing Challenges

Sensory processing challenges are frequently observed in children with autism. According to research, up to three quarters of children with autism display atypical responses to sensory stimuli. The link between autism and SPD can manifest in different ways. For instance, a child with autism may become distressed and anxious in crowded places due to sensory overload. Another child might engage in repetitive behaviors to self-regulate their sensory experiences. Understanding these challenges is crucial in tailoring treatment and providing appropriate support.
Is Autism A Sensory Processing Disorder?
While sensory processing challenges are prevalent in children with autism, it’s important to distinguish between autism as a comprehensive neurodevelopmental disorder and SPD as a specific sensory-based condition. Autism encompasses a broader range of symptoms that extend beyond sensory issues. Sensory processing challenges can be a component of autism, but they do not encapsulate the entire disorder.

The Difference Between Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder

The primary distinction between autism versus sensory processing disorder lies in their scope. SPD centers on difficulties processing sensory information, while autism includes a more extensive range of behavioral, communication, and social challenges. Additionally, autism is recognized as a spectrum disorder, meaning it can manifest in a diverse range of ways, varying from mild to severe, whereas sensory processing disorder remains specific to sensory-related challenges.

ABA Therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder and Issues

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy has proven to be an invaluable resource for children with autism and sensory processing challenges. This evidence-based approach utilizes ABA principles to address specific difficulties and promote adaptive behaviors. ABA therapy can help children with sensory issues learn coping strategies to manage overwhelming stimuli and reduce challenging behaviors like tantrums.

Empower Behavioral is a top provider of ABA therapy that supports children with autism and sensory processing challenges throughout Texas. Our team of dedicated ABA therapists utilize evidence-based techniques and positive reinforcement to foster their growth. With early intervention your child can achieve their goals. Contact us to learn more about how our programs can help with autism and co-occurring sensory processing disorder, or get started today.