Autism spectrum disorder is complex in and of itself but that complexity is only compounded by the comorbid conditions that can come with it. Some of these include sensory processing disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and seizures. Understanding the disorder and its comorbid conditions is challenging yet important for parents, medical professionals, and educators.
A common comorbidity of autism spectrum disorder is sensory processing disorder. Sensory processing disorder is the breakdown in the way the nervous system receives sensory input and translates it into the appropriate responses, motor and behavioral (Sensory Processing Disorder Explained, 2014). In the normal process, the first step there is some kind of sensory input, second, the nervous system processes this input, and finally the nervous system translates it into an appropriate response. For example, the child receives sensory input when a teacher lightly touches his hand to get him back on task, his nervous system processes this input and sends signals to the brain, finally the brain translate it into an appropriate response. In this case, the child quickly gets back on task. However, with sensory processing disorder there is a breakdown somewhere along this cycle. A person who suffers from sensory processing disorder will often find it difficult to process sensory input. There can be over processing or under processing. An example of over processing would be a child painfully reacting to this teacher’s light touch. Although this teacher only lightly touched the child’s hand, this caused discomfort for the child. Over processing can make light, sound, clothing, and even food unbearable. Whereas, under processing occurs when a child does not detect hot or cold, or even pain. A child with problems under processing might fall off the bike and not feel the appropriate amount of pain.
How can you tell if a child has sensory processing disorder? There are common symptoms that could point to sensory processing disorder. These symptoms include; clumsiness, thrill seeking behavior, extreme responses to loud noises, fear of being touched, and fearful of large crowds. This can cause difficulty in functioning with every day activities especially in a classroom setting. In the book The Challenging Child, Stanley Greenspan (1996) explained sensory processing disorder in this way; "Imagine driving a car that isn't working well. When you step on the gas the car sometimes lurches forward and sometimes doesn't respond. When you blow the horn it sounds blaring. The brakes sometimes slow the car, but not always. The blinkers work occasionally, the steering is erratic, and the speedometer is inaccurate. You are engaged in a constant struggle to keep the car on the road, and it is difficult to concentrate on anything else (Greenspan, 1996, p. 4).”
Interestingly, most people who suffer from sensory processing disorder do not have autism spectrum disorder. However, the majority...