ADHD Teams Up with SPD

by | Jul 1, 2020 | ADHD | 12 comments

After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade, we took her to a neurologist.  She told us that Lee had symptoms of sensory processing disorder (SPD), which often occurs with ADHD.  She explained that SPD occurs due to an imbalance in the central nervous system which causes the senses not to coordinate in unison…

Photo Credit: The Rockin Autism Mom

From the first time I pushed Lee in a stroller, I knew she loved to touch.  My friends’ babies stayed buckled up tight, holding their sippy cups and hugging stuffed animals.  Their little bodies were content for a long ride.  My baby squiggled out of her restraints the minute the wheels started rolling.  Reaching over, her hand skimmed the sidewalk, grabbing for flowers and lizards.  Anything I gave her was good practice to throw.

As her body developed, so did her urge to touch.  One day, when I came to get her in preschool, she’d painted her hair blue, the next, she used the school scissors to cut it off.  Then came the birthday party when she took two boys down to the ground to wrestle.  The three ended up in a tangle of legs, flailing arms, and bruised faces.  When the birthday mom asked us to leave, I dragged my little fighter to the car, wondering why she felt compelled to do such a thing. 

After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade, we took her to a neurologist.  She told us that Lee had symptoms of sensory processing disorder (SPD), which often occurs with ADHD.  She explained that SPD occurs due to an imbalance in the central nervous system which causes the senses not to coordinate in unison.  I drove Lee over to a Child Development Center in a nearby town for an evaluation.  She passed the SPD test with flying colors, and I was told she needed occupational therapy.

The occupational therapy classroom looked like a glorified playground, complete with a ball pit, gigantic swings with harnesses, sandpits, and trampolines.  As Lee raced into the ball pit and threw herself around, the occupational therapist explained that Lee craved sensations her body was lacking: a sense of gravity, of feeling her body in space, and an under responsivity to touch.  This made her more restless, impulsive, and hyperactive as she sought to find those sensations. 

Occupational therapy came to the rescue, helping Lee learn how to control her body’s urges and sensory exercises to calm down.  She gained strategies and coping mechanisms for her body’s demands.  From a sensory diet which got her ready to focus in school, to sensory aids which helped her sit still, I had an arsenal of help on my hands.    

If you think your child is struggling with sensory problems, your child’s pediatrician should be able to direct you towards an occupational therapist for a diagnosis. 

Here are some helpful resources:

https://childmind.org/article/how-sensory-processing-issues-affect-kids-in-school/

https://www.additudemag.com/sensory-processing-disorder-or-adhd/

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