Common Symptoms Of "Look-Alike" Diagnoses And SPD Comorbidity

A Comparison Between Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Auditory Processing Disorder,and the Gifted Child

It's no wonder we are confused!!

Sensory Processing Disorder

Older Child (although may apply to some younger children)

__  easily distracted

__  difficulty hearing adult voices over background sounds

__  cannot follow directions without constant verbal reminders

__  cannot complete more than one direction at a time

__  does not complete tasks

__  dislikes changes in plans or routines

__  overly excited when people come to house

__  hides when anyone comes over

__  poor speech, articulation

__  stubborn, uncooperative, defiant

__  erratic sleep patterns

__  does not like loud noises or commotion

__  craves/avoids touching

__  unusually low/high energy

__  "falls apart" frequently

__  has trouble making choices

__  immature, baby talk, cries over inconsequential things

__  short attention span

__  won't join the group

__  clumsy, spacey, lazy

__  impulsive

__  speaks unusually loud/ talks too soft to hear

__  misses when placing objects on table

__  bumps into people and things

__  acts wild when in a group

__  forgets shoes, socks, homework, assignments

__  leaves the table during meals

__  difficulty with handwriting

DSM-IV Criteria for ADHD

I.   Either A or B:

     A.  Six or more of the following symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months to a point that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:


  1.  Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.

  2.  Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.

  3.  Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.

  4.  Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).

  5.  Often has trouble organizing activities.

  6.  Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn't want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).

  7.  Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).

8.  Is  often easily distracted.

  9.  Is often forgetful in daily activities.


     B.  Six or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:


  1.  Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.

  2.  Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.

  3.  Often runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may feel very restless).

  4.  Often has trouble playing or enjoying leisure activities quietly.

  5.  Is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor".

  6.  Often talks excessively.


  1.  Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.

  2.  Often has trouble waiting one's turn.

  3.  Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).


II.  Some symptoms that cause impairment were present before age 7 years.

III.  Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g. at school/work and at home).

IV.  There must be clear evidence of significant impairment in social, school, or work functioning.

Auditory Processing Disorder

__  Difficulty following simple, or complicated directions

__  Difficulty sustaining attention

__  Easily upset in noisy/chaotic environments

__  Guesses, or blurts out answers prematurely

__  Cannot remain seated when expected to

__  Low frustration tolerance

__  Difficulty waiting in line

__  Easily distracted

__  Disorganized

__  Forgetful

__  Fidgety

Common Signs Of A Gifted Child

__  Very alert

__  Rapid learner

__  Advanced vocabulary

__  Very observant

__  Very curious

__  Vivid imagination

__  High degree of creativity

__  Solved a 20 piece puzzle by age 3

__  High degree of math understanding by age 3

__  Intense interest in books

__  Interest in math games

__  Interest in puzzles

__  Interest in computers

__  Many talents

__  Great number of interests

__  Willing to invest time in interests

__  Intense reactions to frustration

__  Perfectionist in areas of interests

__  Chooses older companions

__  Highly competitive

__  Strong leadership ability

Copyright © Michelle Morris. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author:

Michelle Morris is the mother of six, and parent of a child with a Sensory Processing Disorder. She is whole heartedly dedicated to promoting awareness and advocacy for families with SPD children.  She has published over 30 articles supporting and educating parents about SPD.

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Related Resources

Sensory Processing Disorder Checklist - comprehensive SPD Checklist; signs and symptoms of tactile, auditory, olfactory and oral defensiveness, as well as proprioceptive and vestibular dysfunction.

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