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Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID) in Children with ADHD and Autism

written by: Melanie Grimes • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 8/2/2012

Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID) is a neurological condition causing learning disabilities. Children with Sensory Integration issues are able to perceive with all five senses, but have difficulty organizing the information. Many children diagnosed with ADHD have sensory integration dysfunction.

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    Sensory Integration Difficulties in Children with ADHD and Autism

    Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID) is a neurological condition that causes a type of learning disability. A child with Sensory Integration issues is able to perceive with all five senses, but the part of the brain that organized the information is disrupted. The diagnosis for these children can be Aspergers or Autism, dyslexia, or ADHD.

    With SID, all the senses come in on one channel in the brain, instead of being segregated and separated. The vision input is blended with the auditory input and then touch sensations are added on top of that. The child may feel like he/she is sitting inside a bell that someone is striking. Because of this, the child may appear inattentive, or he/she may not respond to auditory or visual messages as quickly as others. The volume of information is overwhelming and the ability to filter is diminished, so the child will retreat or avoid situations that are over stimulating. Some children will react to the over-stimulation with hyperactivity.

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    Integrating Sensory Overload

    Children with Sensory Integration Dysfunction can be taught to understand how they are “wired" and adjust to the blended flood of incoming sense messages that is their norm. Learning to understand their triggers will help them cope. For some, the labels on their shirts, or itchy socks, may overwhelm their senses and shut down their ability to listen to teachers and parents. Becoming aware of the irritation will enable them to remove the cause and then, better process auditory messages.

    Providing a less stimulating environment is the key to helping these children learn. Frequently, they will fail at tests given in the classroom, while knowing the answers to the questions. Children with ADHD and Autism should be given the opportunity to take exams in private, or to answer questions verbally in some cases. Study times should also be quiet and without visual distractions, such as television or music, though some children find that the opposite is true; listening to music can create a gray noise that actually enables them to tune out less repetitive noises such as someone talking in the distance.

    Many children outgrow their Sensory Integration Dysfunction. By adolescence, many of the symptoms are better managed as the child learns coping skills. Helping the child identify their overwhelming sensations and providing quiet study spaces can speed the process of understanding their own learning styles and enable them to be more functional and better adjusted in and out of the classroom.

    Source: author experience