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Autism VS Sensory Processing Disorder  

Children with sensory differences ... painting the world beautiful.  

Autism VS Sensory Processing Disorder 

Jeanette Loftus 

autistic child with sensory differences doing a catwheel Autism VS Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory processing disorder and autism are different and get confused often. I wanted to write about the differences between sensory processing disorder and autism because it is a common misconception and something I am asked about constantly.

Sensory processing disorder is a condition that affects how our brains process and respond to the sensory input around us. People who have sensory differences may struggle to process the sensory input in their environment.

Someone who struggles with sensory processing differences may be over or under-sensitive to sensory input, which can lead to sensory seeking or sensory avoiding behaviors.

Autism is a developmental disorder may affect social interaction, communication and behavior. Sensory issues are common with people who are autistic , sensory differences are not usually their main symptom. Autistic children may struggle with social cues and have a difficult time understanding or expressing their emotions. They may have repetitive behaviors and special interests too.

A common misconception that I hear often is that autism is a sensory disorder. This is not completely accurate but sensory processing issues can be a significant part of autism, Sensory differences are just one of many symptoms that autistic people could experience. Sensory difficulties can also be present in other disorders too like ADHD or anxiety too.

Another very common misconception i see often is that all individuals with sensory processing disorder have autism. It can be true that some children who have sensory processing disorder could also be autistic, not everyone who has sensory processing disorder will be autistic too. A child can have Sensory processing disorder on its own without any other disorders present as a stand alone diagnosis.

I understand the confusion between sensory processing disorder and autism because they do share some very similar symptoms. Both can can struggle with communication, behavior and social interactions but the causes of these symptoms are different. Sensory processing disorder, the main symptoms are with sensory processing but with autism, the main symptoms are not sensory processing usually and with social communication and interaction.

Therapies for sensory processing disorder and autism can be different too. When a child has sensory processing disorder they go to sensory integration therapy and see an occupational therapist to develop a sensory diet. An occupational therapist will help a child learn new ways to cope and regulate their sensory responses. A child who is autistic may also go to occupational therapy too for their sensory differences.

Therapy for autism could be speech and behavioral therapy because they focus on teaching social skills, communication, and managing challenging behaviors.

Not everyone who is autistic or has sensory processing disorder will have the same experiences. Everyone in the world is unique and their sensory symptoms and needs will vary. Someone who has sensory differences may have difficulty with loud noises but another person may struggle with clothing. Similarly, one autistic person may excel in social interactions but another autistic person may struggle with it.

Sensory processing disorder and autism are two different disorders that are confused so often because of their overlapping symptoms and similarities. Sensory differences can be present for autistic people and those who have sensory processing disorder. Someone who is autistic may experience different sensory differences. Someone who has sensory processing disorder struggles with processing sensory input in their environment but may not be autistic because not all individuals who have sensory processing disorder will be autistic. 
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DISCLAIMER: I am not an Occupational Therapist. I am an adult who has Sensory Processing Disorder, a sensory parent and a Grandma. The information on this website is not medical advice and does not replace the information that your child's therapists gives you. These are just ideas and information that I have learned myself over the years of being a parent and an adult living with SPD. If you are concerned for your child, please always seek medical attention through a family doctor, pediatrician or therapist. This website is for suggestions and informational purposes only. Each child is different and what works for one child may not for another because all children have different needs. Please always consult with a professional. Amazon offers a small commission on products sold through their affiliate links on my website.  Each of your purchases through links on my website for Amazon affiliation links or sponsored links support me but no additional cost to you so thank you. I appreciate it so much!