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My child has sensory issues, does it mean they are autistic?

While Autism is often comorbid with Sensory Processing Disorders, the reverse is not always true. Does your child hates wearing socks, only eats green apples or likes spinning in circles? These peculiar behaviors do not mean they are on the autism spectrum. Sensory Deficits can be seen with hypersensitive behaviors (overly active) or hyposensitive (under active) behaviors. 

Here's a break down of various Sensory Processing Disorders, characteristics and strategies to try. 

Sensory Modulation Disorder:  Difficulty discriminating sensory input resulting in negative responses or avoidance. Characteristics: overly sensitive to sounds, dislikes nail/hair cutting, seams in socks is bothersome, easily distracted, difficultly falling/staying asleep, may have issues with eating certain foods/textures. Suggestions: weighted blankets for sleep, weighted lap pads for travel/school, noise-cancelling headphones, tag-less shirts/pants, compression undershirts, weighted vest, essential oils, playing with food to overcome fear, working with a speech or occupational therapist, exercise!

Sensory Discrimination Disorder: Issues with differentiating similarities/differences with stimuli. Characteristics: appears clumsy, likes to jump on beds/trampolines, mouths non-food items, likes spinning motions, may have issues with eating certain food/textures. Suggestions: weight-bearing activities (carrying books/toys), resistance activities (pushing/pulling), playing with food to experiment with textures, sorting food and non-food items, weighted blankets/lap pads, oral activities (brushing teeth/top and side of tongue), deep pressure hugs.

Postural-Ocular Disorder: Difficulty controlling motor movements and postures and/or poor functional use of vision. Characteristics: low muscle tone, sitting in "W" position with legs, fatigues easily, slumps in chair, flat feet, falls frequently, may have issues with eating certain food/textures. Suggestions: increase core muscle strength, increase endurance activities, work on balancing on one leg, offer a foods with a variety of textures and colors. 

Dyspraxia: Deficits with planning, sequencing and executing unfamiliar actions. Characteristics: messy eater, poor grasp for holding utensils, sloppy handwriting, likes routines. Suggestions: practice zipping/buttoning clothing, use kid friendly eating utensils to help eliminate frustration, practicing walking up and down stairs, practice sequencing movements, hand-eye coordinating games. 

If you notice your child is experiencing any of these issues and it is interfering with a functional lifestyle, let your pediatrician know. Further testing and evaluations with an occupational therapist or speech pathologist should be conducted. 

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