Aidan is not an aspie.
Aidan’s big sister, “Abby,” has Asperger’s, but I often describe Aidan as “not on the spectrum, but sitting right beside it.” He doesn’t meet criteria for autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but he still has many of the traits that aspies have. For example, many aspies have seizure disorders – Abby does NOT have seizures, but Aidan was diagnosed with epilepsy (a seizure disorder) as an infant. Additionally, he struggles with social skills and has a lot of social anxiety that is common in ASD. Although he really enjoys having friends, he finds it hard knowing how to initiate friendships. Having an older sister who is an aspie has made this even harder for him because she has been one of his primary role models (sorry Abby!).
What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?
Sensory Processing Disorder is found in almost all individuals who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but there are MANY who have SPD, but no ASD. Aidan has been in and out of occupational therapy for years to treat his sensory challenges. therapists are the primary healthcare providers that treat SPD, so rather than tell you in my own words, here is some info from the SPD foundation (a GREAT resource, by the way):
Sensory processing (sometimes called “sensory integration” or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or “sensory integration.”
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.
One study (Ahn, Miller, Milberger, McIntosh, 2004) shows that at least 1 in 20 children’s daily lives is affected by SPD. Another research study by the Sensory Processing Disorder Scientific Work Group (Ben-Sasson, Carter, Briggs-Gowen, 2009) suggests that 1 in every 6 children experiences sensory symptoms that may be significant enough to affect aspects of everyday life functions. Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder, like those of most disorders, occur within a broad spectrum of severity. While most of us have occasional difficulties processing sensory information, for children and adults with SPD, these difficulties are chronic, and they disrupt everyday life.