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Sensory Processing Disorders ADHD: Navigating Symptoms

Sep 29, 2023

Picture this: you're in a crowded room, and suddenly, the sensory stimuli become overwhelming. This is a common experience for individuals with sensory processing disorders (SPDs) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Both conditions can make it difficult to navigate daily life, but understanding their differences and similarities can help those affected find effective coping strategies.

In this blog post, we'll delve into the complexities of SPDs and ADHD by discussing their differences, common symptoms shared between them, types of SPDs such as over-responsivity sensory modulation, diagnosis methods for both conditions involving pediatricians or occupational therapists,

We will also explore how individuals with ADHD often experience sensory overload due to similar symptoms like easily distracted by loud sounds or bright lights. To address these challenges effectively requires learning about various coping mechanisms that may include mental health support or occupational therapy interventions like Sensory Integration Therapy.

Finally, we'll discuss recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on using occupational therapy for treating SPDs and ADHD while emphasizing the importance of monitoring treatment progress at home to ensure success in managing these neurodevelopmental conditions.

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Table of Contents

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorders and ADHD

Let's dive into the world of sensory processing disorders (SPD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). To gain a better understanding of the two conditions, it is important to note their key differences.

Differences between SPD and ADHD:

  • In SPD, the brain struggles with processing sensory input, causing unusual sensitivity to touch, sound, or light.
  • On the other hand, ADHD focuses on issues related to attention span and impulsive behaviors.

Common symptoms shared by both conditions:

  • Restlessness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Social difficulties
  • Poor emotional regulation

Types of Sensory Processing Disorders

Moving forward, let's explore the different types of SPDs that exist along with their subtypes.

Over-responsivity Sensory Modulation

This is the most common type of SPD and it can make life quite challenging for those affected by it. Individuals with this subtype may experience anxiety due to overstimulation from everyday sensations like clothing textures or background noises.

Other Subtypes of SPD

Buckle up because there are as many as 13 different subtypes within these categories.

  • Sensory Discrimination Disorder: Difficulty interpreting subtle differences in sensory stimuli.
  • Sensory-Based Motor Disorder: Challenges with balance and motor planning.
  • Sensory Under-Responsivity: Unusually low response levels to sensory input.

You might be wondering if there's any connection between ADHD and these various forms of SPDs? No definite relationship between the two conditions exists, yet those with ADHD are more likely to experience sensory overload.

So what does this mean for those affected by either condition? It means that understanding the differences and similarities between SPDs and ADHD is crucial in order to provide proper support, treatment, and coping mechanisms for each individual.

Diagnosing ADHD vs. Sensory Processing Disorder: A Crucial Step

Let's take a look at how ADHD and SPD appear in children.

Consulting a pediatrician is essential to determine whether a child has ADHD or SPD. Note down patterns or changes in behavior over time, as well as any interventions you have tried so far. This information will be invaluable when discussing the situation with a healthcare professional who can then guide you towards appropriate diagnostic tests and treatment options tailored specifically for your child's needs. Parents should discuss observed behaviors and when they started occurring to get an accurate diagnosis. Treatment options vary between the two diagnoses, and an accurate diagnosis can make all the difference in managing symptoms effectively.

  • Differences: Medications like Adderall or Concerta can aid kids with ADHD in focusing better and managing impulses, while behavioral therapy offers additional support for organization skills, time management techniques, getting along well with others, and improving overall quality of life experience.
  • Pediatricians know best: Consulting your child's pediatrician will help guide you through this process by providing valuable insights into potential causes of your child's behavior as well as recommending appropriate steps to alleviate any negative effects associated with these conditions.

Importance of Accurate Diagnosis

An accurate diagnosis is crucial because it ensures that children receive the most effective treatments tailored specifically to their needs. Misdiagnosis could lead to ineffective interventions which may not only fail to address the root cause but also exacerbate existing issues - definitely something we want to avoid.

Remember: Seeking help from professionals is key to ensuring proper diagnosis and effective management of ADHD or SPD symptoms - don't hesitate to reach out.

Key Takeaway: Consulting a pediatrician is crucial in accurately diagnosing ADHD or sensory processing disorder (SPD) in children. Treatment options vary between the two diagnoses, with medications and behavioral therapy being effective for managing symptoms. An accurate diagnosis is essential to ensure that children receive tailored treatments and avoid ineffective interventions that could exacerbate existing issues.

Occupational Therapy for Children with SPDs

Specifically, we're talking about sensory integration therapy, a popular treatment option for children diagnosed with sensory processing disorders (SPDs).

But first, what exactly is this type of therapy?

Sensory integration therapy helps kids learn how to cope better in school and home environments by exposing them to various forms of stimulation. This can include activities like jumping into ball pits, walking barefoot on different surfaces, or crashing into padded walls - all super fun stuff. The goal here is to help children adapt and respond appropriately to sensory input they may find overwhelming or challenging.

Note: While it sounds promising for those dealing with SPDs, Dr. Max Wiznitzer MD cautions that there's no direct correlation between the presence and severity of symptomatology found within both attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and sensory processing disorders.

In other words, don't expect miracles if you're seeking solutions specifically tailored towards addressing ADHD needs through sensory integration therapy alone.

Limitations of Occupational Therapy for ADHD

We know that occupational therapists are amazing at helping kids with SPDs navigate their world more comfortably using sensory integration techniques. Yet, for ADHD, these strategies may not suffice. Additional treatments like medication, behavioral therapy, and coaching are often necessary to address the attention span issues, impulsivity, and hyperactivity associated with ADHD.

Whereas there may be some commonalities in symptoms between SPDs and ADHD, each condition requires its own tailored approach to treatment. Remember: collaboration is key.

Working together with your child's healthcare team will ensure they receive the most effective interventions designed specifically for their unique needs. So what can you do?

Educate yourself on both conditions, communicate openly with professionals involved in your child's care, and advocate for appropriate support services at school or within your community. Your efforts will make all the difference in helping your child thrive despite any sensory processing or attention challenges they face.

Key Takeaway: Occupational therapy using sensory integration techniques can be helpful for children with Sensory Processing Disorders (SPDs), but may not be enough to address Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms such as attention span issues, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Collaboration between parents, educators, therapists and healthcare professionals is essential in developing a tailored treatment plan that addresses the unique needs of each child.

Coping Mechanisms for Sensory Overload in Individuals with ADHD

Dealing with sensory overload can be quite a challenge for individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Loud sounds, multiple conversations, or even fireworks can trigger negative reactions like tantrums and anxiety. But fear not. We've got some practical strategies to help manage these episodes and make life a little easier.

Strategies for Managing Sensory Overload

Recognize the signs of sensory overload early on - this helps you take action before things escalate out of control. Create a "safe space" at home where your loved one can retreat when they feel overwhelmed by sensory stimuli. Noise-canceling headphones or calming scents may provide comfort during times of distress. Use visual schedules that incorporate predictable patterns to minimize unexpected surprises that could cause stress.

Examples of Coping Tools and Resources

  • Fidget toys: These small gadgets can help individuals with ADHD focus and self-regulate during sensory overload.
  • Deep pressure therapy: A firm hug or a weighted blanket can provide calming sensations for those experiencing sensory distress.
  • Sensory breaks: Short, scheduled periods of time to engage in preferred activities that calm the nervous system and reduce stress levels.

Remember, every person is unique. Discovering what is most effective for you or your family member in regards to controlling sensory overload associated with ADHD is the central focus.

FAQs in Relation to Sensory Processing Disorders and ADHD

Is there a link between ADHD and sensory processing disorder?

Yes, there is a link between ADHD and sensory processing disorders (SPDs). Studies have shown that individuals with ADHD often experience sensory processing difficulties. However, not everyone with ADHD has an SPD, and vice versa. Both conditions can coexist or occur independently of each other.

Are people with ADHD sensitive to sensory stimuli?

Many people with ADHD are more sensitive to sensory stimuli than those without the condition. They may be easily overwhelmed by loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, or tactile sensations. This heightened sensitivity can contribute to distractibility and difficulty focusing on tasks.

Do people with ADHD have texture sensory issues?

Some individuals with ADHD may have texture-related sensory issues. They might find certain textures uncomfortable or irritating due to their heightened sensitivity. These challenges can manifest in various ways such as picky eating habits or aversion to specific clothing materials.

Is sensory seeking behavior related to ADHD or autism?

Sensory-seeking behaviors can be associated with both ADHD and autism. People who exhibit these behaviors actively seek out stimulating experiences like spinning objects, touching different textures, or making repetitive sounds for self-regulation purposes. It's essential for healthcare professionals to assess the individual's overall symptoms before determining whether it's linked primarily to one condition over another.


In conclusion, it is important for adults with ADHD to understand the differences and similarities between sensory processing disorders and ADHD in order to manage their symptoms effectively. It is crucial to consult a pediatrician for diagnosis and explore treatment options such as occupational therapy or medication.

Individuals with ADHD may experience sensory overload, which can be managed through coping mechanisms such as deep breathing or taking breaks in quiet spaces. Sensory integration therapy has shown effectiveness in treating SPDs, but it is essential to monitor progress at home.

Sep 29, 2023

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