What is the Difference Between Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism?
There are two disorders that children are commonly diagnosed with today that are seemingly one in the same: sensory processing disorder and autism. While this may seem true to you, there are some differences between these disorders that you should know about.
Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
Originally coined “Sensory Integration Dysfunction,” this is a neurological disorder. Children who are diagnosed with SPD perceive information in a way that results in them abnormally responding to it. Their reactions are different than what you’d “expect.” For instance, they may:
- Be afraid of sudden, high-pitched, or loud noises
- Notice background noises that people around them don’t hear
- Avoid physical contact
- Fear being in a crowd, climbing, falling (may even have poor balance), or playing on the playground
Instead of being a neurological disorder, autism is defined as a developmental disorder. There are various levels of severity that a child may encounter here. However, it always has the same characteristics, which include:
- Behavioral difficulties: Children will behave in ways that are socially inappropriate (e.g. taking their clothes off in public, being aggressive, having tantrums) and self-stimulating (e.g. rocking, hand flicking, hurting themselves, head banging, biting)
- Issues with social interaction, including being unable to carry on a conversation or play with others, the inability to deal with changes in routines
- Sensory sensitivities that result in unusually strong reactions, whether this is regarding sight, sound, touch, smell, or hearing, which are then expressed in an unusual way
Understanding the Difference Between Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism
There definitely seems to be some areas in which SPD and autism are very much alike. However, there is one major difference between the two. While people with SPD will outgrow some of their issues as they grow older, if they receive the appropriate therapy, children who are diagnosed with autism will have to live with it for the rest of their lives. Another important difference to understand here is that SPD affects how your child’s central nervous systems receives messages from their senses because of their brain’s inability to process them correctly. In some cases, this results in overreaction while in others it’s under-reaction, but either way it still happens.
Parents who live in McKinney, Texas have a great resource available to help them – Speech & OT. Over the years, we’ve helped many parents reach a successful diagnosis for their child and we look forward to helping you, too.