As a parent with children that have SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) this is big news. As an adult with SPD this is big news for me as well even though the study was focusing on children. You see, SPD isn’t often recognized as its own disorder. It’s often grouped with other disorders or treated as a symptom rather than a disorder.
This is particularly frustrating when it comes to getting therapies. A diagnosis of SPD alone isn’t enough to qualify for therapy even if they have every sensory concern in the book. They must have something else – fine motor delays, gross motor delays, etc. Motor delays can be prevalent in those with SPD, though, so that is how our children have been qualified for therapy. But why isn’t the diagnosis of SPD alone enough?
Then there is the misconception that SPD is really just a symptom or characteristic of other disorders or even that children “grow out of it.” I’m 32, and I still have it, so I’m not sure exactly what age that would be, but I digress. Our oldest son is high functioning on the Autism spectrum. Many children on the Autism spectrum also have SPD or at least some sensory concerns, so many times people believe that a child with SPD is on the Autism Spectrum.
I have even seen people in special needs parenting groups refer to SPD as “high functioning on the Autism Spectrum.” As a parent of a child who is high functioning on the Autism Spectrum and two who have SPD I could easily see the differences, and I often just sit perplexed wondering why others can’t. To me, there is a pretty clear social/emotional difference as well as our son on the Autism Spectrum having more defined delays as well. Of course, I’m the type of person that usually doesn’t say anything unless someone asks me directly!
Another common misconception is that SPD is ADD/ADHD. In fact, as an adult with SPD I got both a “maybe OCD” and “maybe ADD” diagnosis (and even a personality disorder diagnosis!) before that “aha!” moment when they realized it was none of those but solely SPD.
This is why this breakthrough is so amazing! This study actually shows a biological basis for the disorder that sets it apart from the other disorders. It says it exists AND it’s different! Does it mean someone with Autism or ADD/ADHD doesn’t have SPD? No. They can most definitely have SPD as well. This study, though, shows that a child can have SPD and NOT be on the Autism Spectrum or have ADD or ADHD. Here is quote from the study.
“More frontal anterior white matter tracts are typically involved in children with only ADHD or autistic spectrum disorders. The abnormalities we found are focused in a different region of the brain, indicating SPD may be neuroanatomically distinct.”
I am so glad they have made this discovery! As they also noted in the study, this is only the beginning! I hope they are able to keep pushing for more because this really will open a lot of doors for those of us with SPD. Until then, it’s good to know there is an amazing start! Read the full study at UCSF.