SPD: The New ADD?

FRESNO, Calif.

"I'm often very hyper."
"It's hard to focus. There's so many things going around."
"I Do not like having my hands sticky whatsoever. It drives me nuts."

Is it ADD? OCD?

Or SPD? Sensory Processing Disorder, one study estimates it impacts one in 20 kids, but they're often misdiagnosed.

"Some children may be diagnosed with ADHD who really have sensory processing disorder. They're put on a psycho stimulant medication," Stacey Reynolds, Ph.D., OTR/L, assistant professor at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., told Ivanhoe.

Kids with SPD struggle with any info that comes in through their senses: smells, sights, sounds, tastes, touch, even balance.

"They're really bothered by tags in their clothes, or they're very sensitive to sounds in the environment," Dr. Reynolds explained.

At this sensory lab, play is part therapy.

"The swing is going to give them vestibular information, which is going to be where the body is in space, where their head is in space, and it's going to tie into their sense of balance," Leslie Hiltz, OTR/L, occupational therapist at the Pepin Academy, in Tampa, Fla. said.

"It lets out all my energy because I can't do that in class," 11 year-old, Michaela Meyers told Ivanhoe.

Under guidance of an occupational therapist, special tools help kids get in touch with their senses.

"It provides them resistance against their muscles and joints, so they can really feel their body," Hiltz said.

One study found the therapy improved balance and self esteem and reduced anxiety, but experts say they're still searching for proof it works -- especially because it can cost up to $175 an hour. "So, we're not at a point to say, 'No it doesn't work,' but we're really waiting to figure out if we can better say, 'Who does this work for,'" Reynolds concluded.

SPD is a puzzling condition that's part of these kids' reality.

A group of researchers, families and occupational therapists is aggressively lobbying to get SPD included in the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual. If it's included, some insurance companies may cover the cost of therapy.

Stacey Reynolds, Ph.D., OTR/L
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL

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