Is There a Difference in the Brains of a Child With Sensory Processing Disorder Versus a Typical Child?

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition where the brain has difficulties receiving and responding to information their senses provide. Many wonder if there's a difference in the brains of children with SPD versus typical children.

According to a study, there just may be. 

UC San Francisco researchers have found children with SPD have altered brain connectivity pathways when you compare them with typically developing kids. The difference predicts obstacles with tactile and auditory processing. The journal Frontiers published this research on January 26 in Neuroanatomy and it's the largest imaging study ever conducted in kids with SPD.

Kids with SPD struggle with processing stimulation, which could lead to a large range of symptoms, which include hypersensitivity to:

  • Sight
  • Sound 
  • Touch

Many impacted kids also have poor fine motor skills like:

  • Challenges with attention
  • Issues with holding a pencil
  • Profound trouble with emotional regulation

Certain kids with SPD can't tolerate the touch of a loved one or the noise of a vacuum cleaner. And, this can be irritating one day and tolerated just fine the next which can be confusing to parents.

Treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder

Many families with impacted kids find it's difficult to receive help. This is because SPD, at this time, isn't a recognized medical diagnosis.

However, despite the lack of diagnostic criteria, a pediatric occupational therapist will still see and work with kids (and adults) with sensory processing disorder issues.

Your child's treatment will depend on their individual needs. But, typically, it involves helping your child perform better at activities they're usually not that great at and helping them become used to things they're not able to tolerate.

If a child's brain connectivity can start being measured and therapists and doctors can see how it's playing out in the functional ability of children, this measurement can then be used as a metric for successful interventions.

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