Sensory processing in ADHD
Dr Shelley Hyman
Sensory modulation is the ability to take on the sensory input in the environment and regulate and organise it in a way that can ensure “an optimal range of performance and adaptation to challenges can be maintained.” Mangeot and colleagues (2001) looked at whether children with attentional deficit-hyperactivity disorder presented symptoms of sensory modulation dysfunction as well. Those who are sensory seekers tend to be associated with characteristics of inattention, poor impulse control and hyperactivity whereas those who are sensory avoidant tend to be hyperfocused.
Mangeot and colleagues (2001) found that children with ADHD had significantly greater difficulty with sensory processing than normal children. This may be due to a significantly larger reaction to the initial presentation of a stimulus. They also found that specific sensory symptoms can predict certain behavioural problems such as aggression in children with ADHD.
There was a large variability in the sample in this study so some children with ADHD showed normal physiological responses to the sensory stimuli however others showed heightened hyperactive responses to the same stimuli. Thus they concluded that sensory modulation dysfunction may be an important characteristic that is present in some children with ADHD.
In conclusions, they suggested that sensory processing problems are underdiagnosed in children with ADHD. Not recognising or treating this issue is problematic because it may be what is underlying the child’s hypersensitivity to the environment and inattention.
- Mangeot, S. D., Miller, L. J., McIntosh, D. N., McGrath-Clarke, J., Simon, J., Hagerman, R. J., & Goldson, E. (2001). Sensory modulation dysfunction in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Developmental Medicine and Children Neurology, 43,399-406.