Chicago Speech Therapy: The Difference Between ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder

The diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is on the rise in America’s youth, affecting 2 to 16 percent of school-aged children. Symptoms such as difficulty in listening, focusing, and processing information often lead to an ADHD label, but a different, underlying issue may be at the heart of the problem: sensory processing disorder (SPD).

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a neurological disorder that causes a difficulty in taking in information from the surrounding environment and processing it correctly. Because the brain struggles to read the sensory inputs correctly, individuals may appear agitated or confused when participating in everyday activities. Sensitivity to certain textures, motions, or lighting may trigger an uncomfortable reaction in the individual, causing him or her to act out.

Therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder

While ADHD may share similar symptoms with SPD, the two disorders need to be approached through different methodology to achieve optimal success. ADHD patients typically undergo a blend of psychological therapies and stimulant medications, but SPD patients need to work more on occupational therapy – which can be addressed by a speech-language pathologist. A series of treatment sessions can help individuals become more comfortable functioning in everyday society.

Individuals with SPD undergoing therapy are encouraged to experience sensory inputs, such as differing clothing textures or repetition of sounds, that they would usually turn away from or find uncomfortable. The gradually increasing exposure to uncomfortable situations forces the individual to adapt without acting irregularly.

Treatment at Chicago Speech Therapy

Karen George, a licensed pediatric speech-language pathologist, who incorporates some of these techniques at her practice, Chicago Speech Therapy to treat sensory processing disorder.  Through a series of customized, one-on-one therapist sessions and at-home exercises, she helps young children become more settled with their surroundings.

A typical session with a speech therapist or occupational therapist may include rocking on a swing or manipulating tactile objects such as dough or rice. As the patient’s tolerance increases, the sessions become more challenging and more frequent, introducing new stimuli such as bright lighting or discordant sounds. The result of the therapy is a highly functioning individual who acts with confidence when participating in his work and personal life, regardless of the surrounding sensory inputs.