Autism & Sensory Processing Disorder: The Connection

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Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a neurological and psychological condition where the brain has difficulty interpreting information coming in through your senses. In contrast, an autistic person might be hypersensitive to certain sensory inputs and have trouble regulating their responses. This can result in unpleasant experiences like anxiety and even self-harm for some people who are on the spectrum. With this knowledge, it’s easy to see how these two conditions could come together and create more challenges for those with autism or SPD

Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder are two conditions that are often confused with each other. However, there is a connection between the two. Read more in detail here: autism symptoms.


Individuals with autism often fail to absorb sensory information, and sensory processing disorder and autism frequently coexist.

In fact, sensory difficulties affect over 90% of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It’s usual to be hypersensitive to loud noises, touch, and light.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disease characterized by speech difficulties, socialization problems, and repetitive and ritualistic behaviors. And sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a neurological condition that makes it difficult for a person to interpret and react to environmental inputs.

Treatment approaches for comorbid autism and sensory processing disorder are tailored to each person’s specific requirements. Behavioral and Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that are usually included.

What Is Sensory Processing Disorder, and How Does It Affect You?

Touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste are the five senses that help you interact with and comprehend the world around you.

It’s conceivable that someone with sensory processing disorder’s nerve system isn’t functioning as it should, and sensory stimulation might overload the system. It may be difficult to react appropriately as a result of this. For example, lights may be too bright, noises can be too loud, textures can be too scratchy, and meals might be too hot. Frustration and behavioral disorders might result from difficulties processing sensory information.

The following are common SPD symptoms:

Vestibular Sensitivity Issues

Vestibular senses are also present in humans. These are in addition to the traditional five senses with which we are all acquainted. They include details on how our body and limbs interact and are linked, as well as our body’s orientation to the environment. People with SPD have trouble utilizing these senses, which may cause motor skill problems.

Sensory processing disorder may cause problems with the following:

  • Gross motor skills may be a problem for them. They may have unstable limbs and collide with objects.

  • Coordination: Getting the left and right sides of the body to function together may be difficult. Sports that require hand-eye coordination might be challenging as a result of this.

  • Fine motor skill issues: People with SPD often have difficulty gripping a pencil or crayon, making learning to write and color within lines difficult. They could find it tough to put puzzles together and cut with scissors.

  • Unfamiliar actions: Because the body is unsure how to react, it might be difficult to learn anything new.

A person with SPD’s brain might be overwhelmed by too many things going on in their surroundings at once, making it difficult for them to react and behave logically. As a consequence, they may become easily and rapidly overburdened with knowledge.

Sensory processing disorder may affect all, some, or none of the senses. When sensory processing difficulties interfere with day-to-day functioning, the condition is present.

The Link Between Sensory Processing Disorder & Autism

Sensory processing disorder is not recognized as a distinct medical diagnosis, although it may occur in conjunction with an autism diagnosis. Sensory processing issues, on the other hand, are a sign of autism. Although not all children with autism have sensory processing disorder, research reveal that three-quarters of children with autism exhibit symptoms of the illness.

Sensory processing disorder, formerly known as sensory integration dysfunction, has yet to be recognized as a distinct condition. The fight to get SPD legally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is still going on.

Treatment Methods for Overlapping Sensory Processing Disorder & Autism

Because sensory processing disorder and autism are so closely related, most treatment plans will incorporate strategies for dealing with both sensory difficulties and autistic symptoms. Both SPD and autism should be treated concurrently for the greatest results, as part of a complete treatment strategy in which the whole intervention team focuses on symptoms of both disorders.

If you believe your kid has overlapping sensory processing disorder and autism, speak to his or her physician and work with your medical providers to make sure both issues are handled. Treatment should be tailored to the particular requirements of each kid, since there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for everyone.

The following are examples of treatment options:

  • Positive reinforcement-based behavioral treatments, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), may help promote desirable behaviors while reducing undesired activities.

  • Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that, which includes sensory integration treatment and the establishment of a sensory “diet” to aid with sensory processing and daily life function.

  • Speech and language therapy might help you communicate better and feel less frustrated.

  • Peer interaction and life skills are taught via social skills and support groups.

  • Families might benefit from family therapy to learn how to work together and support one another.

Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that

Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that (OT) is a common component of autism treatment and considered one of the optimal ways to manage sensory processing disorder. OT is regularly included as part of an early intervention or educational plan through the school system. It is also offered through private providers and performed in a variety of settings, including clinics, schools, and within the home.

Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that uses play and sensory tactics to help a person gain real-life skills. An occupational therapist will work with a person to first assess their strengths and weaknesses and then to build attainable goals along with a plan to reach them.

OT can improve the way a person responds to stimuli and the world around them. The overarching goal of Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that is to help someone better function independently by improving daily life skills.

Sensory Integration Therapy (SIT) is a kind of therapy that

Sensory Integration Therapy (SIT) is a kind of therapy that is a component of Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that carried out by an Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that practitioner. This type of therapy works to change the way the brain reacts to incoming stimuli through the senses, including sight, sound, touch, and movement by using play.

Individual objectives aid a person’s tolerance of sensory input, allowing them to engage more completely in everyday life. A youngster with food aversions based on touch, for example, may learn to touch food in a less stressful manner, with the objective of eating a meal quietly and effectively.

Sensory Integration Therapy (SIT) is a kind of therapy that uses different tools and approaches, such as:

  • Increase tactile awareness and enhance touch sensitivities using playdough, water, and sand.

  • To improve vestibular mobility, balance, and coordination, use swings, scooter boards, and therapy balls.

  • Toys or gadgets that vibrate to give relaxing or exciting input.

  • Relax and regulate the senses and body using deep pressure activities and products.

Sensory Integration Therapy (SIT) is a kind of therapy that can be widely creative and an effective method for improving a child’s ability to process things through the senses.

To Manage Sensory Issues, Create a Sensory Diet

Another tool used by Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that practitioners is the creation of a sensory “diet.” This sensory diet is a treatment approach that can be used by families, parents, and caregivers to utilize things that have a calming effect on the specific individual.

The sensory diet is tailored to the individual’s sensory requirements. It may also aid in the steady development of sensory exposure to enhance tolerance. Although it might involve meal and eating habits, a sensory diet is not tied to food.

A sensory diet usually comprises of activities that may be done at different times throughout the day. If a youngster is overstimulated, these techniques may help them calm down. They may also provide the body the sensory input it needs throughout the day to help with attention, concentration, control, responsiveness, and adaptation. To assist manage themselves, children may frequently learn how to conduct these actions on their own.

While families will contribute valuable information that factors into the sensory diet, the treatment plan will need to be created and overseen by a licensed Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that provider.

Helping Children Cope With Sensory Processing Disorder & Autism

Parents may utilize a variety of methods to assist their children in managing SPD and autism. While therapy and professional care are the most critical things you can do to aid your kid, the work you do at home in daily life is equally crucial. 

You can help your child’s mental health by doing a few simple things. Sensory processing disorder and autism present distinct obstacles for your kid. Environmental changes may be beneficial.

Consider the following options:

  • If your youngster is sensitive to noise, use noise-cancelling headphones in noisy or crowded environments.

  • For youngsters who are too stimulated, consider using weighted blankets and coats. These methods may assist them in feeling more in control and at ease.

  • Discuss classroom interventions with a child’s teacher, such as prior notification of fire drills or a specific cushion for their chair.

  • Provide garments with no tags. Children with tactile sensitivity are less likely to feel itchy.

  • Bright lights may be overpowering for youngsters who are sensitive to visual input, so dim the lighting in the room.

  • Educate yourself and others in your child’s life on their unique requirements and the best ways to meet them.

Managing SPD & Autism in Adults

The combination of sensory processing disorder and autism in adults is going to have a different set of challenges than it does for children. For instance, Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that interventions for children often focus on helping them succeed in a classroom setting, and they regularly use play to help with sensory processing. In order to help adults with both SPD and autism, interventions center on self-care skills, helping them to become more independent and function well in daily life.

Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that services are still considered the optimal treatment for adults, and they can be used to help clients better process and integrate sensory information.

Occupational Therapy (OT) is a kind of therapy that for adults is also highly individual. Since autism is a spectrum disorder, the level of disability can vary greatly. OT for adults will be highly specific to an individual’s level of disability and treatment goals.

Adults with autism and SPD might benefit from occupational therapy and sensory integration strategies to assist them better care for themselves, become more independent and self-reliant, and even work outside the house and perform better at work.

Resources for SPD & Autism

For parents, children, families, and persons with sensory processing disorder and autism, there are a variety of services accessible.

  • Your primary care physician or pediatrician: This is often the first place to go for support and information about local options for you or your kid. The doctor may also be able to send you to a specialist who can assist you.

  • ART (Autism Response Team): This toll-free information line, hosted by Autism Speaks, helps link families with individualized autism resources.

  • The National Autism Association (NAA) has local chapters around the country. They also give online tools for families as well as information on how to locate a local autism support group.

  • SPD Assistance is a non-profit organization that offers tools and support to families dealing with sensory processing disorders.


Autism is a complex disorder that can be caused by many different factors. One of the most common causes is sensory processing disorder. Sensory processing disorder is an issue with how the brain processes information coming in through the senses. This process can lead to issues with social interaction and communication skills, as well as anxiety and depression. Reference: autism causes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 5 main symptoms of autism?

A: The 5 main symptoms of autism are a lack of social reciprocity, communication difficulties, restricted interests and repetitive behaviours.

What is an autistic person like?

A: Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder and it affects the way people communicate, socialize or behave. The term autistic person can be used to describe anyone on the autism spectrum, as well as those who do not have any of these traits but are still considered autistic by others.

What are the 3 main signs of autism?

A: The three main signs of autism are problems with social communication and interaction, unusual interests or behaviors that dont include other people, and restrictive patterns of behavior.

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