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What is the difference between sensory processing disorder and ADHD?

Please refer to our blog for Carol Kranowitz's article on the difference in ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. You can find it by clicking here: Difference in ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder

What is sensory processing disorder?

(SPD, formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively. Please see the SPD foundation website for more information.

What should I expect from the testing process?

On the day of your appointment, you and a family member or close friend will meet for an interview with the neuropsychologist. Try to get a good night’s sleep, eat breakfast, and take your medications as prescribed. The neuropsychologist will ask questions about your current problems and recovery so far. Testing will then begin.


Usually testing takes between two and six hours, thought some patients take longer. During testing you will be asked to answer questions, do tasks with pencil and paper, remember information, and possibly respond to questions on a computer. You will be given breaks depending on how you feel and how long the evaluation takes. Afterward, your tests will be scored and the scores will be compared to those of other people the same age and level of education.

What is neuropsychology?

Clinical neuropsychology is a sub-specialty of clinical psychology that specializes in the assessment and treatment of patients with brain injury or disease. A clinical neuropsychologist holds an advanced degree in clinical psychology (Ph.D., Psy.D.), and has completed a clinical internship and specialized post-doctoral training in clinical neuropsychology. What distinguishes a clinical neuropsychologist from other clinical psychologists is knowledge of the brain, including an understanding of areas such as neuroanatomy and neurological disease. The discipline involves the application of standardized measures in the study of brain behavior relationships. They use neuropsychological tests to assess cognitive deficits, and they are involved in the management, treatment and rehabilitation of cognitively impaired patients.  Neuropsychology also entails the development of models and methods for understanding normal and abnormal brain function. Please see the American Neuropsychiatric Association for more information!

What is Section 504?

"Section 504" refers to the section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which guarantees certain rights to individuals with disabilities, including AD/HD. This federal law states that no person "... shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance" (Sec. 504.(a)).

My child has been diagnosed with AD/HD; isn't he automatically qualified for Section 504 services?

No. Although a formal diagnosis is a good first step, it does not automatically mean your child will qualify for accommodations under Section 504. Eligibility for Section 504 is based on the existence of an identified physical or mental impairment that substantially limitsa major life activity. The diagnosis of AD/HD is not enough; his AD/HD must significantly impact his learning or behavior.

What is AD/HD?

While most people have heard of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), many believe the disorder is exclusive to children. However, AD/HD also affects adolescents, college age individuals, and mature adults. Without identification and proper treatment, AD/HD can cause serious difficulties in academic, professional, home, and social settings. Early identification and treatment is extremely important in minimizing these risks. Using sophisticated standardized tests, the Neuropsychology Clinic can detect problems such as AD/HD and other difficulties that often accompany the disorder such as learning disabilities and emotional dysfunctions. Signs and Symptoms of AD/HD.  An individual with AD/HD might:


·   have difficulty paying attention and maintaining focus

·   daydream a lot

·   not seem to listen when spoken to directly

·   be easily distracted

·   be forgetful

·   be squirmy, overly active, or in constant motion

·   talk too much or frequently interrupt others

·   be impulsive (act or speak without thinking)

·   have difficulty taking turns

·   frequently make careless errors


Facts about AD/HD:

·   affects ~3-7% of children

·   affects ~2-5% of adults

·   among children, boys are three times more likely than girls to have AD/HD

·   among adults, men are two times more likely than women to have AD/HD

·   At 11%, Alabama has the highest rate of AD/HD diagnosis nationwide

·   66% of AD/HD cases are caused by genetics (e.g. a parent with AD/HD ismore likely to have children with AD/HD)

·   AD/HD is NOT related to giftedness

·   individuals with AD/HD have a greater risk of medical/health concerns (e.g.smoking, alcohol use, sexual promiscuity, cardiovascular disease, obesity,sleep, poor hygiene, poor driving skills, shortened lifeexpectancy, etc.)


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