Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is typically considered to be a set of symptoms related to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or ADHD. However, new studies and research are showing new ways of thinking about SPD. These new breakthrough studies may lead to faster diagnosis, better treatments, and more hope for patients with SPD.
SPD kids’ brains are different (Tiffany Cook)
A study done by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has revealed that children with SPD have measurable brain structure differences that set them apart from children with other neuro-developmental disorders including ASD and ADHD.
The study also identified abnormal white matter tracts located in the back of the brain rather than in front like with ASD or ADHD. White matter forms the “channels” of transmission that govern thought and learning. Children with SPD, according to the study, possess micro-structural abnormalities including a fundamental disconnect between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which can cause problems in reading comprehension, sensory perception, and fine motor skills – just to name a few areas.
This disconnection is also the subject of the book Disconnected Kids by Dr. Robert Melillo, the founder of the Brain Balance Centers found in the United States. The UCSF study has also established an actual biological basis for SPD and has taken the first steps toward getting SPD recognized as a distinct disease and not just a complication of other neuro-developmental disorders such as ADHD or ASD.
New research furthers diagnosis (Lesley Scott)
The UCSF study is important because it allows SPD to be recognized as a distinct disorder and not simply an extension of another disorder such as ASD or ADHD. Being able to give a biological basis to SPD allows the creation of a diagnostic tool to assist in identifying children who may have SPD.
Potential for new treatments (Amanda Whittington)
Three recent studies conducted in the UCSF Sensory Neurodevelopment and Autism Program are revealing new information about children with SPD. This new information reveals marked differences in brain matter in children with SPD as compared to those without. This breakthrough research, according to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), could lead to SPD becoming a separately diagnosed disorder, rather than a symptom of ASD or ADHD. This would also lead to easier diagnosis in children with SPD as well as the opportunity to develop more and better treatments.
Concrete benefits are still to be had (Kereth Harris)
Breakthrough studies are great if you are seeking a diagnosis or funding, but not actually that helpful on a day to day basis. The long and the short of it shows that a person with SPD has a different brain structure. Is this information useful? Yes and no! Yes, because now it provides the evidence needed to support diagnosis. No, because it will not change your little person with it. Knowledge can be powerful and useful, but be mindful that it doesn’t take your eye off the ball. Living on a day to day basis with a child with SPD is tough, really tough. Keep your energy for that!