Is sensory processing disorder the same thing as autism?

The condition known as sensory processing disorder if often confused with sensory processing issues which often accompany autism spectrum disorders and ADHD. So do they differ at all and if so – how?

Sensor processing disorder

Unlike patients with autism or ADHD, children suffering from sensory processing disorder have biologically different brain structure. The differences are most pronounced in white matter building tracts which connect areas responsible for sensory processing.

This disorder occurs more often than autism and about as often as ADHD. Unfortunately, it often goes undiagnosed or neglected, leading to a child having more difficulties at school and achieving less than they could if provided with treatment and physiotherapy.

Autism and ADHD

Children with these conditions who also experience sensory processing difficulties do not have altered white matter in their brains. For them, these problems are just a by-product of the main condition they are suffering from. It doesn’t mean, though, that it should go untreated or that general treatment for autism or ADHD is enough to tackle sensory processing issues. Physiotherapy and adapting the environment at home and at school are necessary for these children to achieve their full potential.

While these conditions are different biologically, they require the same measures to help children cope with difficulties in daily life. It is best to ensure that your child is learning healthy coping mechanisms instead of hoping that he or she will “grow out” of SPD.


  1. Johanna

    I’m so glad my GP was wise enough to recognize that my son has SPD. It’s so much easier to understand his strange behaviour now.

  2. Michaela

    But it’s true that somehow it gets better with age, I don’t know why. Maybe the brain adapts.


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